Payton: Saints fortunate to be 2-0 despite errors

METAIRIE (AP) — Sean Payton can’t complain about the Saints’ 2-0 record. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t isolated worrisome shortcomings

in the performance of his normally prolific offense, and even his own play calling.

There is “a lot that we have to look at and clean up. Fortunately it’s coming off of a win,” Payton said Monday after reviewing

video of New Orleans’ 16-14 victory at Tampa Bay on Sunday. The victory was clinched by Garrett Hartley’s winning 27-yard

field goal as time expired.

“We’ve got a lot to fix. We’ve got a ton of football to play,” Payton continued. “Obviously, we’ve got to be better at scoring

and I’ve got to do a better job.”

Indeed, it is relatively rare to see Payton’s offense score only one touchdown in game. Even last season, when the Saints

went 7-9, it happened only once in a loss at Atlanta, when Brees was intercepted five times.

Brees was intercepted twice and sacked

four times on Sunday. He also was hit numerous other times right after

throwing, and

would have been sacked a fifth time, as well as stripped for a

third turnover, if not for a personal foul call on the tackler

for a helmet-to-helmet hit.

“There were some plays that even after the pass, he took a pretty good shot,” Payton said. “We’re always mindful of that.”

Payton also blasted himself for the

play calling following a first-and-goal from the 1 late in the first

half. The Saints

came away with no points after an incomplete pass and three

unproductive runs. Mark Ingram was stuffed on the final play of

the series.

“The goal line sequence is on me,” Payton insisted. “I did a poor job of really giving our guys the best opportunity. That

was coaching; it wasn’t the players.”

Yet, as with any victory, some things had to go right. For New Orleans, that meant a second-straight strong performance by

coordinator Rob Ryan’s new defense.

New Orleans yielded only one defensive touchdown, and that came on a short field after Brees’ first interception.

The unit produced two turnovers, one on Malcolm Jenkins interception and one on defensive end Cameron Jordan’s strip of Bucs

quarterback Josh Freeman and Junior Galette’s recovery.

Also crucial was the final third-down stop that forced a failed field goal try with just more than a minute left, setting

up New Orleans’ game-winning drive.

“We played with real good effort and energy, came up with some big plays, turnovers and did enough for us to win the game,

especially when it comes down to that final series,” Payton said.

Although the Saints have played only two games, the No. 10 ranking of its defense (heading into Monday night’s game between

Cincinnati and Pittsburgh), is an encouraging sign for a unit that finished last in the league in 2012.

“We are flying pretty high as a defense,” linebacker Curtis Lofton said. “Last year is last year, that’s in the past. This

is a new team, new defense, new defensive coordinator, so we moved way past that.”

Payton also gushed about tight end

Jimmy Graham, who had 10 catches for a franchise record 179 yards and

the Saints’ only

TD on a 56-yard catch — with much of his production coming after

he was folded backward awkwardly by a late hit to the head

by safety Ahmad Black.

“He had an outstanding game. He was

physical, changed field position for us and was very focused,” Payton

said. “It was great

to see Graham take the hit, get back up and then a couple plays

later catching a seam (pass) right through the middle of their

defense. He ended up really being the difference for us.”

The Saints allowed themselves to celebrate on the flight home, but Monday’s video review session was sobering, right tackle

Zach Strief said.

“You get on the plane, you sit down, it’s all smiles and laughs and jokes, and then the reality is the next day when you turn

the tape on, you say man, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Strief said.

Still, Strief added that there is something to be said for a team that can pull out a victory in crunch time despite not playing

its best.

“Down the road, these games that were early that we just found a way to win will come back big,” he said. “At the end of the

year, there’s no asterisks next to the stats and the schedule.”

Notes: Payton declined to offer any

updates on the health of CB Patrick Robinson, who appeared to have a

serious knee injury,

and DE Tom Johnson, who had a leg injury. ... Payton refrained

from commenting on whether he thought Black should be punished

for his late hit to Graham’s head. “You look at it for what it is

and I think the league is doing that,” Payton said. “It

doesn’t matter if it upset me.”