The Saints offense twice experienced a luxury they haven??t experienced all year during Sunday’s 24-23 defeat at Detroit.
They started in their opponents’ territory.
New Orleans (2-4) converted those opportunities into a touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Bees and a field goal that both nearly gave the team its third victory of the season. And the obvious benefits of creating takeaways that set up the Saints offense in enemy territory were cause enough for safety Kenny Vaccaro and his teammates to intensify their focus on what he dubbed “Operation: Feed Drew.”
“We have to keep taking those,” Vaccaro said Wednesday. “The more chances he gets to score the ball, the better chance we have at winning.”
The Saints have a paltry four takeaways this season. Only Jacksonville (1-6) and Washington (2-5) have fewer than that.
Making things worse is that two of the Saints’ takeaways didn’t do much to improve the team’s field position. A fumble recovery by cornerback Corey White in a Week 1 loss at Atlanta at the goal-line set up the Saints at their 20, though New Orleans then went on an 80-yard touchdown drive. An interception by cornerback Patrick Robinson in a Week 5 win at home against Tampa Bay set the Saints up at their 4, and they punted on the ensuing drive.
When the Saints got their best starting position of the season off Lewis’ interception at Detroit’s 29, they scored a touchdown. Vaccaro’s pick had the Saints offense starting at Detroit’s 49, and it led to a 36-yard field goal.
But Lewis’ and Vaccaro’s interceptions didn’t do much to improve the Saints’ 31st-ranked average starting field position: between their 22 and 23. That isn’t conducive to the quick-scoring drives that can make winning easier for any team.
Brees on Wednesday said the Saints’offense never expects needing short fields to succeed.
“We don’t control how we get the ball,” said Brees, who’s completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 1,916 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. “We control what we do with it once we get it.”
Nonetheless, a second-year player with two interceptions, Vaccaro called it his goal to give the ball back to Brees more often and in much better position than the quarterback’s been getting it.
“Every time I get a pick, I might run and give it to Drew (myself) from now on,” Vaccaro said.
Eric Olsen felt good about his chances of making the Saints for a second season in a row as a backup offensive lineman until he stepped on someone else’s foot during training camp in 2013 and suffered a Lisfranc injury.
Olsen then wondered whether his odds of cracking the roster were all in his head when the Saints soon waived him with an injury settlement. He was relieved to learn that they weren’t when New Orleans re-signed him Tuesday to add depth to its offensive line after center Jonathan Goodwin left three of the team’s last four games hurt.
“I always had the feeling they still liked me here, and that it was an injury-related thing that ended up happening,” Olsen said Wednesday. “It was good to know that ... they still ... feel comfortable enough to bring me back.”
Olsen — a guard and center in college — entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft choice in 2010 for Denver out of Notre Dame. He was on Washington’s practice squad in 2011 when he signed with the Saints for the postseason that year, and he was active for 16 games with the Saints in 2012 as an extra blocker.
The Saints waived Olsen with an injury settlement in early September 2013 after he hurt his foot in the summer. He admitted he would’ve rather remained a member of the team on injured reserve but was glad his return to New Orleans eventually materialized.
“It’s frustrating to be (let go),” said Olsen, who was a free agent before re-joining the Saints. “The circumstances were tough.”
Goodwin, running back Khiry Robinson (forearm), running back Pierre Thomas (rib/shoulder) and linebacker Kyle Knox (ankle) sat out Wednesday’s practice for the Saints, who host Green Bay (5-2) Sunday night. Cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee/shoulder), tight end Jimmy Graham (shoulder), nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley (concussion) and linebacker Ramon Humber (ankle) were limited. Robinson practiced fully despite a hurt hamstring. For Green Bay, safety Morgan Burnett (calf), defensive end Datone Jones (ankle), cornerback Sam Shields (knee) and running back James Starks (ankle) did not practice Wednesday.
After the Saints waived him and he went unclaimed, the team signed rookie linebacker Todd Davis to the practice squad. The Saints also signed tackle DeMarcus Love to the practice squad, and from it, released center Alex Parsons.