It was just over a month ago when the New Orleans Saints were left for dead. It looked like everything the team went through this offseason, with the suspensions throughout the organization in the aftermath of Bounty Gate, had taken its toll on the team. However, flash forward to now and the Saints are just one win away against the Oakland Raiders this weekend from being .500 for the first time this season. The Saints have won four of their last five games, including a huge win this past weekend over the Falcons.
It’s still an uphill climb and will take quite a run to get back into the playoff picture in the much tougher NFC but with an explosive offense led by Drew Brees and new life under interim head coach Joe Vitt, the Saints can’t be overlooked as the regular season winds down. Joe Vitt joined WWL in New Orleans with Bobby and Deke to talk about the win over the previously unbeaten Falcons, on the run by Chris Ivory igniting the offense, on Jimmy Graham compared with Tony Gonzalez, on the defense once again coming up with a big stop late in the game and what the status is of running back Darren Sproles.
On the win over previously unbeaten Atlanta:
“They’re a really good team. I think they were the best team in football when we played them, I think the record indicated that, being 8-0, and they certainly have weapons on offense, they have a sewn up kicking game and they have playmakers on defense. We’re really proud of our guys, the way they played, the way they prepared and now it’s on to Oakland.”
If he thinks the run by Chris Ivory was the thing his offense needed to get jump-started:
“I’m not sure when you’re asking a question or when you’re making a statement Bobby. One of the keys that we wanted to try to do as a football team was get off to a fast start and that obviously didn’t go our way but we have a veteran, poised football team that absolutely knows you’re not going to win or lose football games in the first quarter of an NFL game. We give up a big play defensively, they got on the board early, we turned the ball over offensively and then we hold them to three and it’s 10-0. The run by Chris Ivory, well designed run by our offensive staff, breaks a couple of tackles and now its 10-7.
We’re able to go three and out defensively, punt the ball, get a sustained drive and now it’s 14-10 and the game is on now. We know it’s going to be a one possession game because that’s how six of the last eight games have been decided in this series. It’s going to go down to the end and that’s the way they end in this series and in rivalries so we knew we would have to make great plays down the stretch to win the game and they were a football team that outscored their opponent, they were plus 90 in the fourth quarter in scoring differential, and we knew we would have to play our best football in the fourth quarter to have a chance to win and we certainly did and we’re proud of our guys.”
On Jimmy Graham potentially being in the same category with Tony Gonzalez in the future:
“Jimmy Graham is in his third year so let’s stop. (Host: I said potentially.) Stop, stop. (Host: I’m sayin the potential is there but every game there are a few drops so is it a lapse of concentration or what?) I don’t know Bobby, you just put him in the Hall-Of-Fame so why don’t you ask him that? I mean Hall-Of-Fame players don’t have that lack of concentration. Jimmy Graham had a wonderful year for us last year, he’s a big time player, and everybody understands and knows what we think about Jimmy Graham.
He’s coming off a little bit of an injury this year, he was a little slow to start and he’s just getting back into full tilt now where he’s practicing hard, getting his confidence back, getting his timing back with Drew Brees and he dropped one ball Sunday that he probably wanted over again but that was the only one that I counted and Jimmy Graham has gotten better the last three games production-wise, catching the ball-wise, run after the catch-wise, his protection in the chip package-wise and his run blocking-wise. We really like Jimmy Graham and we think he’s getting better.”
What it shows him that once again the defense came up with a key stop to close the game out:
“I think it shows the toughness, the resiliency and the togetherness of this defense. We’ve taken a lot of criticism this year for our lack of tackling and giving up some big plays, giving up some run yards but not one player on this defense has ever backed away from that criticism, not one player on this defense has ever pointed a finger at a coach or a player and these coaches have stuck by these players 110 percent. I think when you have games like you had Sunday and you have plays like you had yesterday that kind of loyalty shows up. These guys are tough minded people, they have a lot of respect for one another, they work hard in practice to improve and get better and we couldn’t be more proud of our defense or more happy than we were for them Sunday.”
On the status of Darren Sproles:
“Darren is day-to-day and I know there’s a report that he’s going to be out six to seven weeks but that’s just not true. He has a hand injury, we’re going to take a hard look at it this week in practice, see how he catches the ball, he’s itching to get back and Wednesday we will take a hard evaluation at it and see what his status will be for this weekend. He’s working hard in his rehab, he’s going to be back on the field sooner rather than later, I promise you that, and that’s because of his work habits and we will see where that takes us.”