Payton frustrated with short-yardage failures Print
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Monday, 22 September 2008 21:56
NFL Headline News

 METAIRIE, La. (AP) -When it comes to Deuce McAllister, Sean Payton sees a difference between being healthy and being ready.
Payton said New Orleans' coaching staff decided early in the planning stages for each of the Saints' first three games that McAllister, who missed the last 13 games of 2007 to have surgery on both knees, was not yet ready to take on a regular role in the offense.
The question now is whether those decisions cost the Saints losses in their last two games, given that McAllister has said he is healthy enough to play.
``I'm sensitive to that. Let's talk about it,'' Payton said on Monday at the team's suburban training center. ``Deuce McAllister has been a great back for this club and this team, but we have to make a game plan at the start of week and we've got to trust that our game plan is the right plan, not only by play design but also by personnel design. And by personnel design, Pierre Thomas went into that game as our primary short-yardage runner with Reggie Bush as someone that could potentially be in there.''
The Saints stuck with their plan in a 34-32 loss in Denver, during which they failed five times to convert pivotal running plays when they needed to gain little more than a yard.
First came Bush's fumble on third-and-1 from New Orleans' 33-yard line. Denver linebacker Nate Webster recovered the ball and ran it back for a touchdown.
Next came three successive failures after the Saints had second-and-goal from the Denver 1 with a chance to tie the game before halftime. Thomas was stopped on a run up the middle on second down. Drew Brees mishandled the snap on a designed quarterback sneak on third down. Then Denver stuffed Thomas again on fourth-and-goal.
Finally, with a little more than two minutes left in the game, a promising drive for a potential winning score fizzled when Thomas was stopped for a loss on third-and-1 from the Denver 25.
Had that play succeeded, the Saints could have run out most of the remaining time while attempting to score a touchdown or set up a short field goal. Instead, Payton had to send out Martin Gramatica for a 43-yard kick that missed wide right.
Payton blamed his own failure to call time-out before Thomas' last third-down carry. Denver had place one more defender at the line of scrimmage than the Saints were prepared to block. With time running low on the play clock, Brees had no chance to change the play with an audible.
``Pierre did a good job - as good a job as he could have done. They were in a front that really made it tough for us to run that play.''
``I really don't think who the running back was would have mattered.''
Payton also defended Thomas after a failed third-and-1 play at Washington a week earlier, saying a missed block allowed a safety to hit Thomas in the backfield. The Saints were clinging to a slim lead when that drive stalled late in the fourth quarter. The Redskins scored soon after for a 29-24 win.
``I understand the questions'' about McAllister, Payton said. ``I don't get frustrated with them, but we've got to make those decisions ... and the decision was Pierre Thomas. And the decision last week at Washington was Pierre Thomas.
``That's not going to stay the course all season. ... But in yesterday's game, I thought we had a good plan.''
Payton added that, for the most part, it's hard to argue with an offensive scheme that accounted for 502 total yards against Denver.
Payton gave players Monday off. McAllister was not available to comment.
The Saints' all-time leading rusher at age 29, McAllister has spent most of his career converting short-yardage plays with a bruising running style that often compensates for missed blocks. Payton said he could appreciate why Saints fans would want to see more of McAllister, who averaged 5 yards on his only two carries this season.
uce's playing time is coming, but at the same time, it's got to come at the right time when I feel like he's ready,'' Payton said. ``I think he's healthy. I think he's free from the pain of his injury. I think he's moving around well. His weight is down. And so each week we sit in there on Tuesday nights and say, 'Where do we see our personnel?' Not just at running back but throughout the plan. ... Those are decisions that I make and it's that simple.''

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