Each Week Saintsinsider.com will break down a key drive from the New Orleans Saints’ most recent game. The Drive breaks down every play of a drive, analyzes its importance in the game and why that drive mattered to a Saints victory or defeat. In this week’s debut, Matthew Postins breaks down a key third-quarter drive that led to a 1-0 record. Get the inside look right here.
If the Saints were in any way distracted by their week-long stay in Indianapolis, which is where they went in advance of Hurricane Gustav, they didn't show it in their 24-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Saints coach Sean Payton had nothing but praise for the way his team was treated in Indianapolis, starting with the Indianapolis Colts organization -- which allowed them to use Lucas Oil Stadium -- all the way down to the owner of the hotel where the team stayed.
After the victory over the Bucs, Payton handed out game balls to director of operations James Nagaoka, equipment manager Dan Simmons and video director Dave Desposito -- who helped with the plans in Indianapolis.
"Any mental errors we had, botched snaps or penalties, that would be hard-pressed for me to blame on Indianapolis," said Payton, who declined to name the players who received game balls.
DUNBAR PLAYS: With two of the six linebackers on their active roster down with injuries, the Saints made a move Saturday to bolster that position as well as their special teams.
The team signed Jo-Lonn Dunbar, an undrafted free agent from Boston College, from their practice squad and terminated the contract of center/guard Matt Lehr.
Dunbar, who was with the Saints in training camp, was signed to help add depth to the position with Mark Simoneau (back) and Troy Evans (sprained ankle) out of the game.
Dunbar introduced himself to Saints fans as well as Bucs wide receiver Dexter Jackson on a punt return in the second quarter.
Jackson, a rookie, fielded a high kick from Saints punter Steve Weatherford and managed to take a half-step before Dunbar drew a bead on him and leveled him for no gain.
CONVERSIONS DOWN: After finishing 22nd in the NFL in third-down defense last season, allowing teams to convert 41.7 percent of the time, the Saints got the season off to a solid start against the Bucs.
The Saints' defense held the Bucs to just 2 of 12 on third-down conversions for a paltry 16.7 percent success rate. They Saints also stopped the Bucs on their lone fourth-down conversion try late in the contest.
OPENING DAY RECORD: With the win over the Bucs, the Saints are now 14-28 all-time in season openers.
After going 7-24 in their first 31 openers, the Saints have been much better coming out of the chute lately -- winning three of the last four openers and seven of their last 11 dating to the 1998 season.
DT Antwan Lake sustained a groin injury in the team's 24-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and could be sidelined for 1-to-2 weeks.
RB Pierre Thomas, who led the Saints with 52 rushing yards on 10 carries against the Bucs, came out of the contest with an ankle injury. But coach Sean Payton said it shouldn't keep him from practicing this week.
TE Jeremy Shockey was on the field for more than 40 plays against the Bucs, his first game action since fracturing his leg last December, and made it through the game fine.
DT Hollis Thomas did not play against the Bucs and will be sidelined until mid-October as he continues to rehab a torn right triceps muscle.
RB Deuce McAllister dressed for Sunday's game, but did not play as he continues to rehab his surgically-repaired knees.
LCB Mike McKenzie was inactive against the Bucs and his return was unknown Monday.
RB Aaron Stecker was inactive for the Bucs' game because of a hamstring injury. His return was not known Monday.
MLB Mark Simoneau did not play against the Bucs because of a back problem that has sidelined him since mid-August.
REPORT CARD VS. BUCCANEERS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Drew Brees was extremely sharp, especially in the second half of the win over the Bucs. He was 10 of 12 for 211 yards and two TDs in picking apart the Bucs' pass defense with precision in the second half. For the game, he was 23-of-32 for 343 yards and TDs of 39, 42 and 84 yards as the Saints averaged a healthy 10.2 yards per pass attempt.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Saints' numbers weren't all that great, but they did what they had to at times against a tough Bucs' defense. As a team, the Saints rushed for 101 yards on 27 attempts and averaged 3.7 yards per carry. Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush had 52 and 51 yards, respectively, with Thomas averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
PASS DEFENSE: A -- It's been a while since the Saints were able to earn a grade like this. But they did a wonderful job against the Bucs as Jeff Garcia completed 24 of 41 passes for 221 yards and one interception. Garcia was also sacked twice and hurried on numerous occasions. The Saints gave up just two pass plays of 15 yards or more -- for 18 and 26 yards -- and, more importantly, held longtime Saints-killer Joey Galloway to 56 yards on six receptions with a long of 13.
RUSH DEFENSE: D -- This is an area the Saints will really have to work on after the Bucs got them for 146 yards on 20 carries and averaged 7.3 yards per carry. Earnest Graham gashed them for a 46-yard carry and finished the contest with 91 yards on just 10 attempts. Warrick Dunn added 54 yards on nine attempts for the Bucs with a long of 14.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- The return game wasn't great as the Saints averaged just 5.0 yards on two punt returns and 13.4 yards on five kickoff returns. The kick coverage was adequate, however, as the Bucs averaged 6.7 yards on punts and 21.0 yards on four kickoff returns. Steve Weatherford had a good punting day with a 44.3-yard average on seven kicks and had a net average of 35.7. Martin Gramatica nailed his only field-goal attempt from 34 yards out.
COACHING: A-plus -- Sean Payton and his coaching staff get a high mark for keeping the distractions to a minimum, while getting the maximum in preparation from their players during their six-day stay in Indianapolis. Players were both focused and physically ready for the regular-season opener against the Bucs, which resulted in a 24-20 win.