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The New Orleans Saints could be trying to use a poor performance in their season opener as a means for motivation.
The Saints look to bounce back from a disappointing start to the 2007 season when they visit the banged-up Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in a matchup of NFC South rivals.
New Orleans hopes its 41-10 loss at Indianapolis on Sept. 6 could be used as a wake-up call for the rest of the season.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who looks to improve to 4-0 against Tampa Bay. “Maybe we needed to get our butts kicked to get a little fire going.”
The Saints, who won their division and made an improbable run to the conference championship game last season, are viewed as a Super Bowl contender for 2007 but certainly didn’t play like one in a marquee matchup against the defending champion Colts.
“It’s not something where we’re going to rush and panic,” running back Deuce McAllister said. “We know what type of talented guys that we have on this team.”
The NFL’s top offensive team in 2006, New Orleans struggled against an improved Colts defense. The Saints were held to 293 total yards and failed to score a touchdown for the first time with Brees at the helm. Only once last season did they score that few points - a 16-10 loss to Washington on Dec. 17.
Brees was 28-for-41 for 192 yards in the opener, but threw two interceptions, while Reggie Bush and McAllister combined for 76 rushing yards on 22 carries.
Defensively, the Saints allowed 452 total yards and the Colts’ Peyton Manning to throw for 288 yards and three touchdowns. Cornerback Jason David, who signed as a free agent after starting for Indianapolis last season, was burned three times for touchdowns.
“I’m really glad that happened early, that it happened early in the season, and I learned my lesson and I’ve just got to build,” said David, who returned a fumble 55 yards for the Saints’ lone touchdown.
Though there might be concern, the Saints seem poised to put the loss behind them and have confidence as they play their next three games against teams that missed the playoffs in 2006.
“I think it’s important that you make your corrections, that you teach and that you look at it as coaches in regards to all the things that took place and things you could have done differently,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Then you learn from it and you move on.”
The Saints look for their third straight win over Tampa Bay, which lost 20-6 at Seattle last Sunday in its season opener.
Brees could rebound this week after going 24-for-32 for 314 yards and three TDs in a 31-14 victory over the Buccaneers on Nov. 5. He threw for 485 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in two contests against Tampa Bay last season.
Receivers Marques Colston and Devery Henderson—who combined for nine catches for just 81 yards against the Colts—could also be in for a big afternoon against the Buccaneers, who may be without starting cornerback Brian Kelly (groin strain).
The pair shined last November against the Bucs, as Colston caught a career-high 11 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, while Henderson had three receptions for 111 yards and two scores.
Tampa Bay will be looking for its first touchdown Sunday, but it likely won’t come from Carnell Williams. The third-year running back, who struggled in 2006 after rushing for 1,178 yards in his rookie season, ran 11 times for 60 yards against Seattle before leaving with a rib injury that could sideline him Sunday.
Jeff Garcia is expected to be ready Sunday despite leaving last weekend’s game after he was “dinged” on a hit while scrambling. He returned and finished 19-for-27 for 201 yards and was sacked three times in his first start for the Buccaneers.
The 37-year-old quarterback revived his career last season with Philadelphia and will again try to improve a Buccaneers offense that scored seven or fewer points six times as the team went 4-12 in 2006.
“We need to have a sense of urgency about ourselves to get better right now,” said Garcia, who is Tampa Bay’s sixth different starting quarterback since the beginning of the 2004 season. “I think there were a lot of inconsistencies out there as an offense.”
He will try to get receiver Joey Galloway involved Sunday. Galloway caught five passes for 72 yards against the Seahawks and had eight receptions for 207 yards and three TDs in two games against the Saints last season.
Galloway caught two touchdown passes in the Bucs’ most recent victory over New Orleans, a 27-13 home win on Jan. 1, 2006.