Injuries weigh on Saints after 5 weeks

The on-field problems are correctable for the New Orleans Saints. What head coach Sean Payton can't do is accelerate the health of his injured players as the Saints prepare for Oakland. Plus, link to exclusive saintsinsider.com content previewing this game.

This week's big clash between the Saints and the Raiders has everyone talking. Saintsinsider.com's Matthew Postins and SilverandBlackillustrated.com's Mike Wagaman are examining the game from every angle. Today, it's Behind Enemy Lines Part I, as Wagaman answers Postins' questions about the Raiders. Read Part I by clicking here.

At this point, the Saints only wish the myriad problems that have been so prevalent in losing three of their last four games were limited to penalties and special teams mistakes.

Those are correctable, or at least they should be.

There's absolutely nothing coach Sean Payton can do to correct the multitude of injuries that have plagued the Saints (2-3) since their season opener with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 7.

In the 29 days and four games between the win over the Bucs and a 30-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, nine Saints' starters -- and many backups -- have missed at least one game because of injury or NFL suspension.

The list will grow by at least one when the Saints host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, thanks to the season-ending right wrist injury rookie cornerback Tracy Porter suffered in the loss to the Vikings. Porter, a second-round draft pick, started the first five games and had an interception and one sack and ranked third on the team with 32 tackles.

As a result, Payton will be forced to juggle his defensive lineup again after he hinted that some personnel and lineup changes could be in order after the heartbreaking setback to the Vikings. The Saints held a seven-point lead in the final quarter before the Vikings rallied for 10 points in the final seven minutes to win.

But while injuries are a problem, so are the penalties the Saints have piled up the last two weeks. They were flagged 13 times for 123 yards in a win over San Francisco on Sept. 28, then had 11 for 102 yards against Minnesota -- leaving Payton and quarterback Drew Brees bewildered.

Add to that four turnovers in the loss to the Vikings and the injuries and it's easy to see that the Saints are becoming increasingly frustrated with how things are going.

"We've got to start playing smarter," said Brees. "We've got the right type of characters in that locker room. We started 0-4 last year, and that was a lot tougher than this. We bounced back and played well at the end of the year, so we just have to get some guys healthy and start playing smarter."

"Losing is tough -- 2-3 is 2-3 and it's disappointing in that all the losses were real close," Payton said. "Nonetheless, it is what it is. The quickest way that I know how to get rid of that feeling and get going again is to put some wins together.

"You can't put wins together without getting the first one, so it starts well with playing well in this Oakland game. It starts with eliminating the turnovers and penalties."

Still, Payton is confident the Saints, who after this Sunday won't play in the Superdome again until Nov. 24, can weather the storm.

"The players are going to look to us -- they're going to look to the coaching staff and to the leaders on this team," he said. "Certainly, they understand there's a ton of football left. But we have to make those corrections."


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