A day after a frustrating 24-23 loss to Detroit, Saints coach Sean Payton could not help but talk about the officiating again.
New Orleans was penalized a season-high 12 times for a season-high 134 yards, prompting some heated discussions between Payton and the referees down the stretch and at the end of the game. Although he again refused to hang the defeat on the hankies Monday, his stance was just as strong as on Sunday.
“We had a few too many penalties, but two or three of them weren’t penalties,” he said.
The most critical penalty came on safety Rafael Bush, who was called for interference on a fourth-down pass to Reggie Bush that went incomplete. Instead of giving up the ball, Detroit got an automatic first down at the 6-year line and scored the winning touchdown three plays later.
“In general it’s not the calls they (the officials) miss (that are frustrating),” Payton said. “It’s the calls they saw that nothing really happened. Those are the ones that are a lot harder to swallow. … The ones they explain to you on the game field that this is what they saw, and then you watch the tape (and see something different), those are more difficult.”
He was not done there. Talking about the chance to finish off the Lions on the drive that ended up with a 48-yard Shayne Graham field goal for a 32-10 lead, he veered back to the officials.
“A few things take place, and now all of a sudden we’re third-and-long,” he said. “You throw the screen play, and the running back (Travaris Cadet) gets tackled around the head (no flag flew) and you kick the field goal.”
Although a veteran crew worked the game — the same officials who did Saints’ divisional round playoff against Seattle last season, Payton clearly felt it was a subpar performance.
“I don’t even want to start,” he said. “It’ll cost me money.”
Six times in one answer, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks used a form of the word “finish” as he explained where the Saints need to get better for the rest of the season.
Three of New Orleans’ four losses have come after it led in the final two minutes. The Saints led the Lions 23-10 with 4:00 left.
“That’s what’s happened so far — the inability to finish,” Hicks said. “We’re going to focus this week on finishing the play in practice, finishing the run in practice, finishing your workout. Finish, that’s going to be the message this week.”
Defensive end Cameron Jordan agreed.
“We could easily be sitting here at 5-1,” he said. “We know we have to finish games, and that’s something we will work on this week. When you lose close games like that, it’s heartbreaking. When you dominate for three quarters and you end up letting off in the last couple of minutes, it definitely hurts. This is a tough game to swallow.”
Foster’s season over
The knee injury Glenn Foster suffered Sunday will end his season.
The New Orleans Saints defensive lineman was placed on injured reserve Monday after being knocked out of the 24-23 loss to the Detroit Lions.
The team also waived linebacker Todd Davis and re-signed tight end Tom Crabtree. Davis was promoted from the practice squad and Crabtree was released ahead of Sunday’s game.
Foster, who was signed out of Illinois as an undrafted free agent last season, logged 71 snaps and recorded one tackle this season.
Ready for Rodgers?
It won’t get any easier for the Saints. Next up: a Sunday night date with streaking Green Bay (5-2) and quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Rodgers has thrown 13 touchdown passes with zero interceptions in the last four games, with the Packers outscoring their opponents 145-68 in that span. “It’s going to be fun,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “Like Drew said after the game, there’s nothing better than playing Green Bay on Sunday night football. There’s nothing better to bounce back.”
The teams have not played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since 2008, when New Orleans won 51-29 while picking off Rodgers three times. The Packers beat the Saints 42-34 in 2011 and 28-27 in 2002 at Lambeau Field.
“He (Rodgers) is a complete quarterback,” Jordan said. “He’s an elite quarterback. He’s done a great job of having an awareness in the pocket, and he’s a little more elusive than you’d expect.”
Drew Brees is taking some heat for his late interception that set up Detroit for its winning touchdown, but he is not getting any abuse from Payton.
Until that crucial mistake, Brees had not thrown an interception and had surpassed 300 passing yards against a defense that was ranked No. 1 in the NFL. He has seven interceptions for the year, tied for third most in the league.
“Obviously he’d want to have the one interception back, but I felt like his decision-making and the rhythm and his week of preparation and how he played all during practice week was outstanding,” Payton said. “He’s going to be just fine. He’s the least of our worries.”
Almost the best
While hitting 25 of 31 passes through three quarters at Detroit, Brees moved ahead of Chad Pennington as the NFL’s all-time completion percentage leader at.6606. Pennington’s was .6605.
The honor was short-lived. After going 3 of 14 in the fourth quarter, Brees fell back below Pennington at .6597.
Third on the list? Rodgers, who improved to .6588 by going 19 of 22 against Carolina on Sunday.
Although Payton does not talk about injuries on Monday, cornerback Keenan Lewis, who was hurt in the second half against Detroit, said he would be ready for the Green Bay game. … The Saints (2-4) lost no ground in the NFC South. Division leader Carolina (3-3-1) and Atlanta (2-5) were beaten by the combined score of 67-24. Tampa Bay (1-5) was off.