Drew Brees was no worse for the wear the day after making his first start since suffering a bruised rotator cuff against Tampa Bay.
Brees, who completed 33 of his 41 passes for 359 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and the game-winning 80-yard strike to C.J. Spiller, felt good Monday morning, according to his head coach.
“I think aside from your normal soreness after a game, I think (Brees is) fine,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.
Brees largely stuck to the short passing game against the Cowboys, but the health of his throwing shoulder had little to do with the dink-and-dunk execution of the game plan.
The Saints’ franchise quarterback was forced to unload the ball early to avoid a relentless Dallas rush.
“The first half, a lot of it was the pressure,” Payton said. “We struggled blocking them, and as a result, there were some throwaways, some balls that didn’t get down the field.”
New Orleans initially planned to stretch the field more, a game plan that came in handy on a 30-yard completion to Brandon Coleman near the end of regulation and the game-winning touchdown pass to Spiller.
“We had a handful of deeper spears, pylons, more aggressive throws versus some of their man-to-man, but we struggled blocking them,” Payton said.
Brees, for his part, said the shoulder held up well.
“I felt good,” Brees said. “Good enough to get the job done.”
The Saints were encouraged by the presence Jairus Byrd, Keenan Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe brought to the defense Sunday night.
Now that the trio is back in the lineup, the Saints will begin to increase the workload for all three players.
New Orleans limited their involvement in order to fulfill the first priority: getting Byrd, Lewis and Ellerbe back into football shape.
“It was good, obviously, to have all those guys get back into a role,” Payton said. “I would say from a snap-count standpoint, they played pretty much what we had hoped for, a little bit more in the nickel and sub-packages than the base.”
Byrd played 37 snaps at free safety, Ellerbe played 19 snaps in coverage situations as a linebacker, and Lewis added 18, although he briefly left the game after his first few snaps before returning to the sideline.
Byrd, the prize free-agent acquisition seeing his first action since tearing his meniscus last October, made four tackles and looked aggressive in run support.
Ellerbe added a tackle and helped hold the Cowboys running backs without a catch one week after Lance Dunbar caught 10 passes for Dallas against the Falcons.
“All those guys, I think, did some good things, I thought Jairus did some real good things,” Payton said. “They got their first game back, if you will, coming off the injury, so it will be good to build off of that.”
Flags for thought
The New Orleans secondary was flagged seven times against the Cowboys, repeatedly extending drives after the Saints made a key stop or forced a third-and-long situation Dallas was ill-equipped to convert.
Both Brandon Browner (seven penalties this season) and Delvin Breaux (six) have been repeat offenders, although Breaux’s have come in two games: the season opener against Arizona and a regression against Dallas on Sunday night.
“There’s one or two in there that are kind of like ‘Ah, are you kidding me?’” Payton said. “But the point being is that it’s been pretty consistent, and it’s something we need to continue to work on.”
For the Saints, the key is getting in better position.
“The first thing you look at when you’re watching the film is leverage and being on the right side of the receiver,” Payton said. “Leverage alignment, that’s the first area you point to.”
Punters, kickers coming
Punter Thomas Morstead was held out during the second half Sunday because of a strained quad suffered during a kickoff, Payton told WWL radio Monday afternoon.
The Saints are planning on in bringing in four punters to work out Tuesday, according to to Fox Sports 1.
The tryouts could be just to update emergency lists, or they could be to find a contingency in case Morstead is unable to play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Fox also reported the Saints will work out some kickers later this week after Zach Hocker missed a kick at the end of the fourth quarter that sent the game into overtime.
Payton confirmed that right guard Jahri Evans had arthroscopic surgery on his knee “a week and a half ago,” and left tackle Terron Armstead underwent an X-ray on his left knee at halftime. Armstead’s X-rays were negative, and he returned to the game. ... Payton praised new Miami interim coach Dan Campbell, a former tight end Payton coached in New York, Dallas and New Orleans. “Fantastic guy. Great worker, great teammate. He’s someone that is tough, strong. I can’t say enough good things.”