METAIRIE, La. (AP) -Did Jim Haslett expose a weakness in the team he once coached?
The relentless blitzing employed by the St. Louis defensive coordinator helped limit New Orleans to only 18 offensive plays during the first half of the Saints' 37-29 loss to the Rams on Sunday.
Drew Brees, however, wasn't ready to concede that St. Louis provided a blueprint for upcoming opponents on how to slow him down.
Because New Orleans (4-5) lost by only one score after being down 34-7, Brees was confident the Saints could make the adjustments necessary to avoid being stifled by the same defensive scheme again.
``Early on, they got us,'' Brees said Monday after reviewing film of the loss. ``As the game went on, we figured it out and we were able to move the ball right down the field.''
Head coach Sean Payton placed much of the blame on himself, saying the formations he called on offense had players lined up in spots that left them vulnerable to blocking mix-ups.
``There were no new inventions'' by St. Louis, Payton said. ``We just didn't execute as well as we would have liked.''
When Brees was sacked and fumbled in the first quarter, ending a potential scoring threat in Rams territory, right tackle Jon Stinchcomb and running back Reggie Bush were confused over who was supposed to pick up blitzing linebacker Will Witherspoon, Payton said.
Stinchcomb said the offensive line reviewed game film carefully and came away humbled.
``To say we were squared away with everything that was going on during the game is a fallacy,'' Stinchcomb said. ``Today's one of those days where we have to learn from it and make sure we can use it as a positive, because we've already lost the game, but we can't lose another one because of the mistakes we made.''
When Brees threw his second interception of the game under pressure, Payton said, tight end Eric Johnson had primary blocking responsibility on the blitzing defender, with Bush as backup. But Payton, again blaming himself, said Johnson's alignment was too wide for him make his block effectively, and Bush didn't anticipate that he would be needed to compensate.
Since taking over as the Saints' featured running back after Deuce McAllister's knee injury, Bush's blocking ability is being tested more than ever.
Next Sunday in Houston he may find himself trying to protect Brees from none other than defensive end Mario Williams, the surprise No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, one slot ahead of Bush, who thought until the day before the draft that Houston was going to pick him.
Bush has yet to address his upcoming meeting with Williams. He did not speak to reporters after Sunday's game. Team officials said he didn't feel well after a helmet-to-helmet hit that briefly knocked him from the game before he returned to score on a pair of 2-point conversions.
On Monday, Bush canceled a scheduled media conference in which he was to announce a charity event he plans to sponsor when the NBA All-Star game comes to New Orleans in February.
Meanwhile, New Orleans' offensive line also took a hit against the Rams when Jammal Brown went out after Brees was knocked into the back of his left leg. There was good news Monday on that front, Payton said, as tests revealed only a muscle strain that should not cause Brown to miss the Houston game.
Payton declined to focus on the failures of a particular player during the loss to the Rams, be it Bush's blocking or cornerback Jason David's pass defense. David often had coverage on Torry Holt, who finished with a game-high eight catches for 124 yards.
``Everyone wants to burn someone here,'' Payton said. ``There are a lot of things we didn't do well yesterday. We're not talking about one player. There's a lot. Myself and the coaches are on the front of the list.''
Fortunately for the Saints, Carolina also lost and Tampa Bay was off, meaning New Orleans is only one game behind the Buccaneers for the NFC South Division lead, despite seeing its four-game winning streak come to an end.
``We still have the division right in front of us,'' Brees said. ``We are going to see Tampa Bay one more time. We are going to see all of our division opponents one more time. So we're lucky to be in the position we are: At 4-5 and still only a game out.''

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