FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter followed head coach Mike Smith's lead in second-guessing a critical decision in Sunday's 26-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

On third-and-2 from the Browns' 35-yard line with 55 seconds left in the game, Koetter called for Matt Ryan to hit Devin Hester on a go route down the right sideline in an attempt to take advantage of unproven Browns rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert. The end result was an incomplete pass and a stoppage of the clock, saving the Browns a little more time for their game-winning drive after Matt Bryant's 53-yard field goal put the Falcons ahead.

"Any time a play doesn't work, trust me, everyone out there who's pulling their hair out about that call, I pull my hair out 10 million times more than that," Koetter said. "Any play that doesn't work, let alone a critical play, you're playing it over in your head 50,000 times. Like every situation that comes up, there's two, three, four plays spinning in your head that you're trying to choose between. And you have a few seconds to make the decision on what call to go with, and you have to go with it with confidence. And then when that play doesn't work for any reason, then I'm going to be the first one second-guessing it.

"The play we called didn't get the job done. We make the first down there, the game is over. We're assuming Matt (Bryant) ... we're either going to run it down and kick a shorter field goal. We always think Matt's going to make it. When you don't make (the first down) and you stop the clock, it's not ideal. So, sure, we'd change it."

Based on the film, Roddy White appeared to be open underneath as Ryan hurled his pass to Hester. The Falcons also could have opted to run the ball.

"We were running a combination route on one side and a isolation route with Devin," Koetter explained. "That's what the play was. Roddy was part of the combination route on the other side. Matt has his keys based on what he's looking for. I'm not going to get into all that. There's a lot of factors that determine what side you're working.

"One of the things that people have got to realize is, Matt Ryan doesn't have 53 1/2-yard wide vision. Once the ball is in the air in a shotgun snap, he's got to read one side of the field or another. Sometimes, you have full-field reads, but that's not in a pressure situation when they're in a five-man rush."

Prior to Koetter expressing his regret, Smith took the podium Monday and indirectly admitted how calling a timeout before the third-down play with 55 seconds remaining was not the right move.
METAIRIE, La. -- ESPN analysts Steve Young, Trent Dilfer and Ray Lewis absolutely nailed the current state of the New Orleans Saints in their postgame breakdown after Monday night's 34-27 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Naturally, the ex-QBs Young and Dilfer were defensive of Drew Brees. But they correctly pointed out that Brees' woes are magnified because -- as Young put it -- he's been "neutered because he has no help."

Here's the recap:

[+] EnlargeDrew Brees
AP Photo/Jonathan BachmanThe problems surrounding Drew Brees appear more prominent when the Saints QB does make a mistake.
Young: "You gotta know that whoever that wild-card team that has to come down here if that's the case ... (the Saints) are just not gonna play enough defense. There's nothing about this Saints team that's scary, other than No. 9..."

Dilfer: "And he has to be perfect ..."

Young: "And he's been neutered because he has no help and he's not getting protected. So, to me, whoever comes out of the division, put 'em in the playoffs and they're gonna be one-and-out. There's no way you can go forward with what they have. Now, we've seen teams get hot and strengthen and turn the ball over defensively. But (Sean Payton said last week) it's a six-game season? I think it's gonna be tough for them to get very far."

Dilfer: "What's unfair is when you're not supported by a good defense, it magnifies every mistake..."

Young: "And you're unprotected by the offensive line..."

Dilfer: "Yeah, it magnifies every mistake you make. So Drew (had some) missed throws. He wasn't perfect. But hardly any quarterback is perfect. But his mistakes become magnified because you feel like every time he has the ball, he has to be perfect."

Dilfer and Young then dissected how often Brees was under pressure on Monday night, when Brees was sacked four times and hit as he threw the third-quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown.

"It just takes away from his brilliance, because there is so much good that No. 9 does to get things going," Dilfer said.

Protection hasn't been a constant issue for Brees this season -- but it certainly was on Monday night since the Saints couldn't run against Baltimore's defense and became one-dimensional.

Young put Brees in the elite class with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers and said all of them "go south" when they have protection issues.

"The problem with what's happening with Drew now is he's 35 and everybody's starting to talk about (a decline), and this is only going to add to that. And that just frustrates him, I'm sure," Young said. "But unfortunately he doesn't have a lot of weapons to fight back with right now."

Host Steve Levy then pointed out the Saints can no longer count on their home mystique, either, after dropping three straight home games for the first time since 2006-07. The Saints' streak of 14 straight prime-time wins in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome fell on Monday night.

Then Lewis interjected with perhaps the most damning line of all:

"They were good then, Steve."

"That's a big deal," Young added. "The whole league knew, no matter how they were playing they could come down here (in the Superdome) and get healthy. Things could get right. Now that's all gone. You have nothing left."
TAMPA, Fla. -- Doug Martin knows the critics are out there.

They say he has lost it and he's not the same running back who rushed for more than 1,400 yards as a rookie in 2012. So what does the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' running back say about all that?

[+] EnlargeDoug Martin
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsBucs RB Doug Martin is averaging 2.8 yards per carry, far below his 2012 season average of 4.6.
"I don't say anything," Martin said. "That's something you've got to ignore. That's just outside noise. You've just got to ignore that and keep playing the game and having confidence in my game. It's just something that you've got to brush off."

But Martin hasn't been able to brush off defenders very often this season and that has fueled the critics. Martin is averaging just 2.8 yards a carry and has 193 rushing yards and one touchdown.

Injuries have been a factor. Martin missed two games with a knee injury and three games with an ankle injury.

"You don't want to make excuses, but injuries do kind of slow you down," Martin said.

But Martin is healthy now and his production hasn't picked up. In Sunday's loss to Chicago, Martin had 11 carries for 27 yards. He also was used in a rotation with Charles Sims and Bobby Rainey.

"As a running back you do want a rhythm," Martin said. "But we have Charles, Bobby and myself in the backfield and each guy brings something different to the table."

Coach Lovie Smith has said the run blocking by the offensive line hasn't been as good as he would like. That's a big part of the reason the Bucs rank No. 29 in the league in rushing offense.

But much of the blame from the outside is falling on Martin. From the inside, the belief is Martin still has what it takes to be an elite back.

"I think so," quarterback Josh McCown said. "Everything's been so up and down with injuries and stuff like that. There's been an inconsistency of just time for him. It's not anybody's fault. It's just where it's been. I still absolutely think he's capable of doing those things because it still flashes. I think it's more of us as a whole, as a group, continuing to improve in that area."

Martin said he is every bit as good as he was as a rookie.

"I do believe so," Martin said. "I'm very confident in my ability."

But the only way to silence the critics is to start churning out yards like he did in 2012.

Buccaneers shake up return game

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have given up on return man Marcus Thigpen.

The team waived Thigpen on Tuesday and made a couple moves at tight end, where injuries are a concern. Thigpen had struggled since taking over the job from Trindon Holliday.

The Bucs didn’t add a return man in their roster moves, so it appears likely they’ll turn to in-house candidates. Receiver Louis Murphy and running back Bobby Rainey can do punt returns. Those two also could be candidates along with running back Mike James for kickoff returns.

The moves at tight end came after all three tight ends were injured in Sunday’s loss to Chicago. The Bucs promoted tight end Cameron Brate from the practice squad and signed tight end D.J. Williams.

It’s unclear how serious the injuries are to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Brandon Myers and Luke Stocker, but the moves indicate the Bucs expect at least some of their tight ends to be out for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati.

The Bucs also made some moves on their practice squad, signing linebacker Denicos Allen, tight end Taylor Sloat and fullback Evan Rodriguez while releasing tight end Ted Bolser and cornerback Quinton Pointer.

QB snapshot: Matt Ryan

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
A quick observation of quarterback Matt Ryan and how he played in the Atlanta Falcons' 26-24 loss to the Browns in Week 12:

Ryan simply had a poor outing, completing 27 of 43 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and a passer rating of 86.7. He was not precise, specifically deep (3-of-8 from 20-plus yards). Ryan was 0-for-7 when targeting Julio Jones down the sideline, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Ryan also had a key miss to Devin Hester down the right sideline on third-and-2 late in the game, although Roddy White looked open underneath on the same play.

Ryan, who entered the game completing 63.9 percent of his passes outside the numbers, was just 9-of-21 against the Browns.

Ryan vowed to take more deep shots with Jones, who missed two days of practice last week. Falcons coach Mike Smith contended the timing between Ryan and Jones wasn't off. "No, they weren't out of sync," Smith said. "In terms of production [Sunday], it wasn't what we'd like to have."

Give the Browns' defense credit for confusing the Falcons with their coverages and for the way cornerback Joe Haden competed against Jones. Now Ryan will face the challenge of trying to get back into rhythm with Jones against one of the league's top corners when Patrick Peterson and the Arizona Cardinals come to the Georgia Dome on Sunday. Ryan has thrown nine interceptions in his last two matchups against Arizona.

QB snapshot: Cam Newton

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
A quick observation of quarterback Cam Newton and how he must improve in the Carolina Panthers' game at Minnesota on Sunday:

A defense ranked seventh against the pass and 12th overall, one that held Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers to 209 yards passing Sunday, isn't exactly what a struggling quarterback trying to turn around a career-worst season wants to face.

That Newton will be on the road with temperatures expected to be in the high teens doesn't help, either.

Newton first must cut down on turnovers. He has thrown five interceptions in the past two games and 10 in the past seven. He has tied a team record with an interception in seven straight games. He had only 13 all of last season.

Newton hasn't had a passer rating better than 85.8 in the past seven games and has topped 100 once all season.

The good news? He went to Minnesota looking to turn around his and Carolina's season in the fifth game a year ago. He threw three touchdown passes and had a passer rating of 143.4.

QB snapshot: Drew Brees

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
A quick observation of quarterback Drew Brees and how he played in the New Orleans Saints' 34-27 loss in Week 12:

Believe it or not, Brees is actually on pace to throw for 5,078 yards with 32 touchdowns and a league-best 70.3 completion percentage.

But it’s still easy to see that he’s not playing up to his usual standard. And it’s easy to identify why: the turnovers.

Brees has thrown 11 interceptions and lost two fumbles this year. And it’s not just the volume that’s disturbing -- it’s how incredibly costly they’ve been in huge moments. His interception returned for a touchdown in the third quarter of Monday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens was the latest example.

Brees has thrown three pick-sixes this year. Only Blake Bortles and Austin Davis have thrown more, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Brees' accuracy also has been a tick off on some of his deep balls throughout the year and some of his red zone throws Monday night. And I don’t disagree with analysts who say he’s not the same as usual this season.

But I also believe that’s magnified by the fact that the Saints so desperately need Brees to do it all for them. Brees has been pressing too much with the Saints' defense once again playing so poorly (a flashback to 2012 in both regards).

QB snapshot: Josh McCown

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
A quick observation of quarterback Josh McCown and how he played in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 21-13 loss to Chicago in Week 12:

McCown had what probably was his worst outing of the season. He looked off all day, completing just 25 of 48 passes for 341 yards.

But don’t let the yardage total fool you. McCown was not efficient. He was intercepted twice and lost a fumble. His turnovers cost the Bucs dearly.

Rain and wet conditions may have played a factor in McCown’s dismal day. But he’s a 13-year veteran who has played in all sorts of weather, so the elements aren’t a valid excuse.

All of that came a week after McCown had his best game of the season in a victory against Washington. McCown has to play the way he did against Washington in order for the Bucs to have a chance against the Bengals on Sunday.
NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Saints (4-7) helped two divisions make history Monday night with their 34-27 loss to the Baltimore Ravens (7-4).

The NFC South is now the only division in NFL history with every team at least three games below .500 at any point in the season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And the AFC North is now the only division to ever have every team at least three games above .500.

Remarkably, New Orleans is still tied for first with the Atlanta Falcons (4-7), despite having lost three straight games -- all at home.

Obviously, that’s a great incentive to keep plugging away. In any other division or any other season, New Orleans would just be playing out the string at this point.

But it should come as no surprise that Monday night, the Saints weren’t taking any comfort or motivation from the rest of the division’s failures when their own are so prevalent.

“I ain’t even worried about no hunt. There ain’t no hunt when you’re 4-7,” Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis said when asked about still being in the playoff hunt. “You gotta worry about winning the next game. There’s no such thing as a hunt when you’re 4-7.”

“You don’t really take a lot of solace right now after a loss,” coach Sean Payton said. “Obviously, to be playing for something is important. And yet we’ve gotta make sure that some of the things we did better tonight we continue to build on, and then some of the things we didn’t do well, we get corrected. … I completely see -- and our players completely see -- ‘Hey, these are some things we’ve gotta be better at. And if we’re not, then it’s not gonna matter.’”

The Falcons currently hold tiebreakers based on head-to-head record and division record. But the Saints could erase those tiebreakers by winning their final three games within the division (vs. Carolina in Week 14, vs. Atlanta in Week 16, at Tampa Bay in Week 17).

That alone might be enough to win the division at 7-9.

Heck, the Saints might even still be considered the front-runners -- as NBC analyst Rodney Harrison suggested.

But as offensive tackle Zach Strief pointed out, the Saints still have to figure out how to actually start winning games for any scenario to play out.

“The reality is this team needs to fix itself, because it’s not gonna matter. Because we have to win games,” Strief said. “So if it wasn’t that scenario, it shouldn’t change what guys are playing for in here. If you can’t elevate yourself to care enough based on pride and based on responsibility to each other to your fans to your coaches, then you’re not a professional. So it shouldn’t matter.

“The reality is all we have to worry about is fixing ourselves, because everything’s gonna come from that. If we don’t fix ourselves, nothing else matters.”
Four-time All-Pro safety and two-time Super Bowl champion Rodney Harrison almost was at a loss for words about the NFC South.

The current NBC "Football Night in America" analyst and Atlanta-area resident took a moment on Tuesday morning to break down what's going in the wacky division. The Falcons and Saints currently are tied atop the standings at 4-7, followed by the Panthers (3-7-1) and Buccaneers (2-9).

"It's been surprisingly bad," Harrison said. "Probably the most disappointing team, I would have to say, is the Saints, especially the way they played last night. But you also have to look at Carolina. To take the steps back that they've taken ... I thought Cam Newton was ready to go to that next level. It seems like he's regressed a little bit.

"The Falcons, despite all the injuries along the offensive line and injuries on the defensive side of the ball, I'm not really shocked where they're at. I'm just shocked more so with the way that they're losing. That's the disappointing thing. They want to sit back and blame Mike Smith about everything, and coaches have to take a certain amount of the blame, but they don't have anyone. It takes more than two guys, and Julio [Jones] has been kind of up and down this year. He's dropping some passes. And I'm not going to even say nothing about [his] contract situation."

Harrison obviously believes the Panthers and Buccaneers are out of the running despite not being mathematically eliminated from contention. He glanced at the upcoming schedule for both the Falcons and Saints and offered his take on which team would walk away with the division title.

"Saints are going to win it because of the schedule," Harrison said. "They played tough last night (in a 34-27 loss to Baltimore). I was surprised that Drew Brees threw a pick-6, but those are things that he's been basically doing all year. He hasn't played great. But we'll see what happens."
TAMPA, Fla. -- His team is 2-9, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith continues to point to the NFC South standings.

He did it again Monday and he can do it again today. With New Orleans losing to Baltimore on Monday night, the Saints and Atlanta are 4-7. Carolina is 3-7-1.

"We're two games out of first place," Smith said Monday afternoon. "We are still in the playoff hunt. So there's no looking at younger players -- it's who gives us our best chance to win, period. So it's pretty easy for us right now. Forget the record right now; everyone in the NFC South is disappointed and has let games get away and feel like they're a pretty good football team -- we're right in the mix of that. So it's full steam ahead for Cincinnati [this week's opponent] for us."

Smith is right. The Bucs still are in the NFC South hunt. They have five games left to play, including contests with New Orleans and Carolina. The Bucs are facing an uphill battle, but the other three NFC South teams are struggling, so anything is possible.

The Bucs should play to win as long as they remain in contention. But Smith already is taking long looks at some younger players. He gave defensive end Jacquies Smith a start Sunday and has been playing rookie running back Charles Sims extensively.

Moves like that aren't geared toward next season. Guys like Smith and Sims are playing a lot because they've shown they give the Bucs the best chance to win now.
NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints got one thing right in Monday night's 34-27 loss to the Baltimore Ravens -- the offensive aggressiveness and sense of urgency that was so blatantly lacking a week earlier.

The Saints' first play of the game was an empty-backfield pass, with Drew Brees hitting Jimmy Graham for 11 yards.

Their second: a 67-yard gain on an end-around run by seldom-used dynamic receiver Joe Morgan.

Of course, that drive ended with a failure to punch it in, despite having first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. But we've established by now that this team is far from perfect.

At least the Saints looked more like their usual selves on offense while failing to get the job done.

"Last week was real tough the way we looked, but I thought we had energy tonight," said Saints coach Sean Payton, who had admitted his team was too "flat" after a 27-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. "I felt like our guys had the energy and were ready to go. It's a game that comes down to opportunities, and we weren't able to capitalize on them."

That aggressive approach backfired when Payton said he went with a "gut feeling" to go for it on fourth-and-1 on the Saints' opening drive because he thought it was an important time in the game to send a message. Saints running back Mark Ingram wound up getting stuffed for the third time on that goal-line stand.

[+] EnlargeDrew Brees
AP Photo/Jonathan BachmanDrew Brees threw for 420 yards and three TDs, but he also had a costly interception against Baltimore.
But it was the execution that failed -- not the mindset, especially considering the Saints need their offense to lead the way with their defense struggling so mightily.

"Our approach going in, and our players knew it, was that we were going to be aggressive in this game," Payton said. "And we obviously could look back and [have] kicked it. But it's something I decided."

Brees' performance was also aggressive but imperfect.

His stat line was a pretty good summation of what kind of night it was, for better and for worse: 420 yards, three touchdowns and one colossally-costly interception that was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Brees admittedly missed a couple of throws in the red zone -- where the Saints scored only 20 points on five trips inside the 16-yard line. However, he seemed to be too generous on himself for a poor decision to throw the interception while under pressure.

Brees described it as "really just bad luck -- you get wrapped up just as the ball's coming out of your hand and it kind of deviates the throw a little bit."

The offensive line did earn its share of the blame, too -- on that play and many others. The Saints couldn't run a lick in the first half, and Brees was sacked four times overall.

In a bit of a role reversal, the unit that played the best was the receiving corps, which had been sagging for much of the season. Morgan also had a 62-yard catch in the first quarter. Marques Colston and Kenny Stills also had big nights. Even Nick Toon got in on the action.

Another positive spin for the Saints: Baltimore's defense was probably the best remaining on their schedule. New Orleans will certainly have better opportunities for success against the other three struggling members of the NFC South later this season (vs. Carolina in Week 14, vs. Atlanta in Week 16, at Tampa Bay in Week 17).

And, yeah, that's grasping at a consolation prize at this point. But, hey, someone has to win the embarrassing division. And an aggressive, attacking Saints offense offers their only hope to be that team.
NEW ORLEANS -- The Baltimore Ravens' first offensive snap on Monday night was a 38-yard run by Justin Forsett.

Their last meaningful snap was a 20-yard touchdown run by Forsett.

And in between was a whole bunch of other ugly stuff for a New Orleans Saints defense that has somehow managed to regress during the Saints' current three-game losing streak.

New Orleans' defensive performance in Monday night's 34-27 loss to the Ravens might have been its worst yet this season. And the only reason I say "might" is because there are so many other worthy candidates.

"I think every game we come off, it's something new. Sometimes we have problems with the pass, sometimes we have a problem with the run, sometimes we have a problem with both," Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis admitted bluntly. "So we gotta fix everything."

Of course there's plenty of blame to go around after this loss -- and for the Saints' pitiful 4-7 season, in general.

And of course quarterback Drew Brees deserves a large share of it after he threw yet another game-killing interception in the third quarter that was returned for a touchdown.

But Brees' sin is that he hasn't been able to handle the burden of needing to be almost perfect every week. He's pressing too much because he's all the Saints have -- and it's not working out.

It's 2012 all over again.

At least the Saints had an excuse that year, when they went 7-9 and set the NFL record for yards allowed in a season while coach Sean Payton was serving a year-long suspension.

This year has been a much more startling disappointment because the Saints' up-and-coming young defense under second-year coordinator Rob Ryan was actually supposed to alleviate that pressure on Brees and the offense more than ever.

Last year was a breakout year for the Saints' defense. This year, it has been nothing but breakdowns.

"This year has been kind of funny, just the way we find a way to lose the game," veteran linebacker and captain Curtis Lofton said. "We gotta quit finding a way to lose the game and find a way to win a game."

The Saints' defensive sins were too many to count Monday night. They couldn't get off the field again on third downs (Baltimore was 9-of-13). They allowed five plays of 35 yards or more. They forced one turnover and one sack -- but it wasn't nearly enough to make up that big-play deficit.

More than anything, though, the Saints couldn't stop the run, which has recently emerged as their biggest problem in a series of rotating biggest problems this year.

Forsett ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. He set the tone on the Raven's opening drive, which ended in a touchdown. And he put the game out of reach late with that final touchdown that put Baltimore up by 14 with 2:53 remaining.

"I think tonight it was apparent we struggled just consistently stopping the run. That happens, and there are a lot of things that become more challenging," Payton said. "Your third downs become more challenging. Your pass rush becomes more challenging. The pressure on the back end becomes more challenging."

The Saints did try to make a couple of lineup tweaks this week -- moving cornerback Patrick Robinson back into the starting lineup ahead of struggling Corey White and thrusting recently-signed rookie Pierre Warren into the starting free safety job vacated by Rafael Bush's season-ending leg injury.

Those moves actually paid off a little, with those two combining to force a fumble near the goal line.

But not much else panned out. Ryan dialed up more blitzes than usual on third-and-longs, but Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco fired off quick passes that burned the secondary just as much as when the Saints weren't getting any pressure.

When asked if it's frustrating that the Saints are still trying to figure out so many issues this late in the season, Payton said, "We're not trying to figure it out. We're trying to correct it."

"Obviously our margin for error is not good enough to win close games," Payton said -- a realization that's even more disturbing. "We have to play better and coach better."
NEW ORLEANS – Observed and heard in the locker room after the New Orleans Saints' 34-27 loss to the Baltimore Ravens:

Brees on pick-six: After throwing for 420 yards, three touchdowns and one extremely costly interception that was returned for a touchdown, Saints quarterback Drew Brees said, "There's just not a large margin for error ... and we're just not doing quite enough to get the job done right now."

Brees said his throws in the red-zone weren't good enough on the drives that fell short, and he said his pick-six was "really just bad luck -- you're getting wrapped up just as the ball's coming out of your hands, and it kind of deviates the throws a little bit. ...

"This is a game of inches and split seconds. Unfortunately a lot of those haven't gone our way this year."

Brees later added, "It's the team that makes the least amount of bad plays that wins, not necessarily the team that makes the most amount of good plays."

Saints vow to keep working: The Saints didn't try to sugarcoat their performance, but there were also no signs of frustration boiling over in the locker room. Coach Sean Payton said the team remains "together" and "tough-minded." Cornerback Keenan Lewis said, "If you're down at this point, you find a way to fix it, not walk out." And offensive tackle Zach Strief said, "If there's one good thing I can say about this team is there's been a constant elevation in work."

Payton, who took an extra-long time addressing the team before meeting the media, kept his message in-house. Brees' message was that they just need that one win to start turning things around. "Winning cures a lot of things," Brees said.

Vaccaro on personal foul: Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro got the raw end of the deal on a personal-foul penalty after he retaliated against Ravens receiver Steve Smith for shoving his helmet off after a tackle in the third quarter. The penalty had Payton incensed on the sideline for several minutes. Neither dwelled on the penalty after the game, though.

"He's just a competitive player. I made a tackle, he stiff-armed my helmet off, and that was it," Vaccaro said. "I mean, I'm not gonna back down. At the same time, I can't get stupid penalties."
NEW ORLEANS -- As expected, New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas, cornerback Keenan Lewis and linebacker Curtis Lofton are officially active for Monday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.

It’s unclear if either Thomas (shoulder, rib) or Lewis (knee) will be limited at all. Thomas practiced every day this past week on a limited basis after missing the past four games. Lewis also increased his workload, practicing twice after being limited to 10 snaps last week.

There were no real surprises among the Saints inactives: receiver Robert Meachem, running back Khiry Robinson, offensive tackle Nick Becton, defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, linebacker Kyle Knox and cornerbacks Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Terrence Frederick.

That means all three newcomers the Saints signed this week will be active: receiver/punt returner Jalen Saunders, safety Pierre Warren and linebacker Moise Fokou.

There were also no surprises among the Ravens’ inactives: nose tackle Terrence Cody, receiver Michael Campanaro, linebacker Arthur Brown, defensive end DeAngelo Tyson, center Gino Gradkowski, cornerback Rashaan Melvin and offensive tackle Jah Reid.