Using today's numbers, the Saints could pick as high as No. 8 in the 2015 NFL Draft

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) walks off the field after their loss to the Atlanta Falcons in an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. The Falcons won 30-14. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

. The thing about silver linings is that they are only found in devastating moments. You don’t look for the bright side of things when things are already bright. You only search for positives when your head is pointed toward the ground and you’re looking for a way to raise it up. And make no mistake,… Continue reading →

Saints’ playoff hopes are put to rest as Falcons fly off with a 30-14 victory

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD --   New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) is stuffed by the Atlanta Falcons defense during the third quarter Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints lost 30-14.

The New Orleans Saints’ locker room in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday afternoon was already about two-thirds empty by the time the doors opened to those allowed to mill about inside. To call the mood somber would be painting too rosy of a picture. It was stiff. Players were crestfallen and spoke in hushed… Continue reading →

Rabalais: Jimmy Graham’s goal-line gaffe sums up the Saints’ lost season perfectly

Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael (36) strips the football from New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) after a reception near the goal line in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. Falcons free safety Dezmen Southward (41) tackles. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

For once Sunday, Drew Brees was able to drop back in the pocket unhurried to find his favorite target open over the middle: tight end/wide receiver/amateur pilot Jimmy Graham. Graham leaped high on his basketball-trained pogo sticks and came down with the ball right at the goal line. The pensive Mercedes-Benz Superdome crowd, chewing nails all afternoon… Continue reading →

Video: Saints playoff hopes end in mistake-filled 30-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Atlanta Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora (50) pulls in a Drew Brees fumble before returning it for a touchdown as the New Orleans Saints took on the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, December 21, 2014.

. Advocate sportswriters Ramon Antonio Vargas and Nick Underhill review the highlights and low lights from the Saints' 30-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, which cost them a chance to win the NFC South and qualify for the postseason. Click here to see the video.Continue reading →

Photo gallery: Saints vs. Falcons

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator is comforted by Atlanta Falcons assistant head coach  Terry Robiskie in a NFL football game in the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014.

Saints fall to Falcons 30-14 in the last home game of the season.… Continue reading →

Jimmy Graham’s too-close-to-call fumble at the goal line leaves Saints frustrated

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael (36) and Atlanta Falcons free safety Dezmen Southward (41) sandwich Jimmy Graham at the goal line. Graham fumbled and the Flacons took over as the New Orleans Saints took on the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, December 21, 2014.

After struggling for most of the first three quarters Sunday, the New Orleans Saints offense finally put together its most promising drive of a must-win game with the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints gained just 94 yards on their first seven possessions against the NFL’s worst defense before marching 66 yards to the Falcons’ 14 on… Continue reading →

Fans: Officials made wrong call

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD --   New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) fumbles at the goal line, scooped up by Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael (36), during the fourth quarter Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints lost 30-14.

Score or swindled — Saints fans will likely debate the ruling of Jimmy Graham’s almost-touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons for months. With the 2014 NFC playoffs no longer an option, most Who Dats started immediately after Sunday afternoon’s 30-14 loss at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. From the lower levels to the loge, most fans thought… Continue reading →

Video: Saints disagree with referees ruling not to overturn a Jimmy Graham fumble against the Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael (36) strips the football from New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) after a reception near the goal line in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. Falcons free safety Dezmen Southward (41) tackles. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

. The Saints thought tight end Jimmy Graham caught a touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday. Referee John Parry upheld officials on-field coall that the play was a catch fumble, which cost the team a key touchdown.… Continue reading →

Falcons sack Drew Brees five times to knock Saints from playoff contention

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Atlanta Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora (50) pulls in a Drew Brees fumble before returning it for a touchdown as the New Orleans Saints took on the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, December 21, 2014.

Sacks are far from the only indicator of how effective a football team’s pass rush is, but they give a fair idea of how adequate a defense is in that department. The Atlanta Falcons, therefore, weren’t very good in that respect coming into their game against the Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday. Their last-ranked defense… Continue reading →

Falcons one win away from playoffs

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert McClain, center, celebrates an interception with Atlanta Falcons free safety Dwight Lowery on a pass intended for Saints wide receiver Nick Toon, right, Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It was one of four turnovers by the Saints.

Throw out the records. Forget the first 16 weeks of the NFL season. None of it will matter when the Atlanta Falcons (6-9) and Carolina Panthers (6-8-1) square off next Sunday for the right to represent the NFC South in the postseason. The Falcons eliminated the New Orleans Saints (6-9) from playoff contention Sunday at the… Continue reading →

Notebook: Carolina’s win not on Saints’ minds

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD --  Saints fans cling to hopes for the playoffs before the Saints were eliminated from contention Sunday with a 30-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina's 17-13 win over Cleveland. Saints players said they did not know about Carolina's win until they were told by reporters in postgame interviews.

When the New Orleans Saints walked off the field Sunday, there was still a flicker of playoff hope left for them since the Carolina-Cleveland game wasn’t over. But even though Saints coach Sean Payton said he found out about the Panthers’ prevailing 17-13 to end his team’s playoff hopes, the players did not seem… Continue reading →

Saints-Falcons Three and Out

Advocate staff photo by SHERRI MILLER -- New Orleans Saints inside linebacker David Hawthorne (57) and defensive back Terrence Frederick (37) attempt to bring down Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) during the Saints vs. Falcons game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014.

1 WHAT WE LEARNED The outer ring of lights in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome roof went dark before kickoff, an eerie reminder of the power failure during Super Bowl XLVII. It turned out to be part of the pregame show, but it also foretold the way the Saints’ season is coming to an end. With Sunday’s 30-14 loss to the… Continue reading →

Instant Replay: Falcons 30, Saints 14

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Atlanta Falcons strong safety Kemal Ishmael (36) and Atlanta Falcons free safety Dezmen Southward (41) sandwich Jimmy Graham at the goal line. Graham fumbled and the Flacons took over as the New Orleans Saints took on the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, December 21, 2014.

WHAT WE LEARNED The Falcons were there for the taking on Sunday, a similar bad team like the Saints with one of the most statistically inept defenses in the NFL. Instead, Atlanta was the Grinch Who Stole The Saints’ Christmas by taking away their chance to win the NFC South and make the playoffs. The bottom… Continue reading →

Coming up for Saints: At Tampa Bay

SAINTS AT BUCS WHEN: Noon Sunday WHERE: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla. TV: Fox RADIO: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWL-FM, 105.3; WWL-AM, 870; KMDL-FM, 97.3 RECORDS: Saints 6-9; Buccaneers 2-13 SCOUTING REPORT With both the Saints… Continue reading →

Packers clinch playoffs with 20-3 win over Bucs

Associated Press photo by Brian Blanco -- Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy, a former Dutchtown star, sprints past Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Bradley McDougald on a 44-yard touchdown run during the Packers' 20-3 win Sunday in Tampa, Fla.

TAMPA, Fla. — Nothing Aaron Rodgers does as a quarterback surprises the Packers. The NFL’s top-rated passer shrugged off the flu and played most of Sunday with a strained left calf, leading Green Bay to a 20-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — clinching at least a wild-card playoff berth.… Continue reading →

Panthers beat Browns 17-13, move into first place

Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton (1) is tackled by Cleveland Browns' Donte Whitner (31) and Pierre Desir (26) in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton’s teammates have never doubted his toughness. But their respect for the fourth-year quarterback has reached a different level. Newton threw for one touchdown and ran for another, and the Panthers defeated the Cleveland Browns 17-13 to take sole possession of first place in the NFC South. The win comes just… Continue reading →

Saints want the Superdome crowd loud and proud for Sunday’s showdown with the Falcons

Advocate staff photo by SHERRI MILLER --  New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) lines up his receivers during the Saints vs. Panthers game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.

It’s natural for the home crowd to at least grow quiet — if not bitterly boo — when its football team makes enough mistakes to fall behind by multiple scores. That happened when the New Orleans Saints, already down 7-0 at home to Carolina on Dec. 7, turned the ball over twice on their first three plays and… Continue reading →

Gameday: Falcons at Saints

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Saints tight end Jimmy Graham

SCOUTING REPORT: The Saints know how quickly the Falcons’ Matt Ryan gets rid of the ball — so now it’s all about making him go even faster The thing that stands out to the New Orleans Saints when watching Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is how quickly he gets rid of the ball.… Continue reading →

Lewis: Heaux! Heaux! Heaux! Finding gifts for everyone on the New Orleans Saints’ list

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan leaves the field during a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens on Aug. 28. Ryan said he's been asked to play Santa a few times but said 'I wasn’t very good; not as good as you would have thought.'

Even with his hair cut and beard trimmed, Rob Ryan is still the obvious candidate out on 5800 Airline Drive to play Santa Claus. “Yeah, I’ve been asked to a few times,” said the Saints defensive coordinator, although looking none too jolly about the prospect. “I wasn’t very good; not as good as you would have… Continue reading →

Having gashed the Falcons on the ground in the season opener, the Saints brace for a stouter Atlanta run defense in the rematch Sunday

Associated Press photo by DAVID GOLDMAN -- Saints running back Mark Ingram runs for a touchdown as Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert McClain chases during the second half Sunday.  Ingram scored a touchdown on the play.

The New Orleans Saints first alerted the NFL that they would be capable of fielding a top-10 rushing attack this season when they played in Atlanta in the season opener. The Saints ran for an impressive 139 yards, and they got three touchdowns on the ground from Mark Ingram (two) and Khiry Robinson as they lost… Continue reading →

Kenny Vaccaro settling into familiar role

Associated Press photo by Nam Y. HuhBears quarterback Jay Cutler slides as Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro makes the tackle during the second half of Monday's game in Chicago.

Kenny Vaccaro went through the reports written about him last season. He didn’t like what he was reading. The critics called him a jack of all trades, someone who was good at a lot of things but was great at nothing. Vaccaro wanted to be considered great. That’s how he views himself, and he believes he… Continue reading →

Video: Getting pressure on Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will be the key for the Saints in Sunday's NFC South showdown

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

. First place in the NFC South will be on the line when the New Orleans Saints play host to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The key to the game will be the play of the New Orleans Saints defense. Click here to see the video.Continue reading →

Terron Armstead among those questionable against the Falcons

The Saints might be without left tackle Terron Armstead against the Falcons. Armstead (neck) and safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) are both listed as questionable for Sunday’s game after missing Friday’s practice due to injury. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (ankle) is also listed as questionable. He was limited Friday. If Armstead is unable to play,… Continue reading →

Saints linebacker Junior Galette expected to have limited action in Sunday's game against Atlanta

. The Saints were forced to limit Junior Galette’s snaps last week against the Chicago Bears due to a knee injury that he’s been managing. He doesn’t expect his situation to change Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. “Basically the passing situations, probably the same thing going into this game,” Galette said. “Trying to ease off the… Continue reading →

Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Saints

Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones (11) catches a touchdown pass in front of Green Bay Packers' Sam Shields during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Saints in New Orleans because of a hip injury, Atlanta announced Friday. Despite missing last week because he was hurt, Jones is second in the NFL in receiving yards (1,428). He is also second on the Falcons in touchdown catches (six), behind only… Continue reading →

Why Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro is happy to return to his role as defense's chess piece

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan speaks with New Orleans Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (32) on the bench in a NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.

New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro thought he had it all figured out in the off-season. He wanted to be considered a great player, not a player who was adequate at multiple positions. So this season -- his second year -- he'd focus on playing great at one position. That plan hasn't worked out, but Vaccaro… Continue reading →

With Falcons looming, Saints can find advantage in solving quarterback cadences

Associated Press photo by Nam Y. HuhSaints quarterback Drew Brees throws a pass as Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea pursues during Monday's game.

It became a running joke last year when the microphones on the field repeatedly picked up Peyton Manning barking “Omaha” at the line of scrimmage during a Denver Broncos game. The call became so synonymous with the quarterback that Manning can now be heard yelling the catchphrase in commercials. After the Broncos beat the… Continue reading →

Saints sign kicker Dustin Hopkins to practice squad

Watch out Shayne Graham — the Saints have a kicking competition. The Saints signed Dustin Hopkins, a former sixth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in the 2013 NFL draft, on Tuesday. Hopkins was put on the 10-person practice squad, which is rare for kickers. Graham has converted 19 of 22 field goals this season, but missed one in… Continue reading →

If the Saints need him against Atlanta, defensive tackle Bryce Harris will be coming off of his best performance

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Saints T Bryce Harris (79) makes a block during the morning Saints Training Camp practice Sunday in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Four times this season, reserve tackle Bryce Harris has played more than 50 snaps filling in for an injured Saints starter. One key thing made the most recent occasion — New Orleans’ 31-15 victory over the Bears at Chicago on Monday night — different from the rest. When Harris entered the contest, the Saints (6-8) were in… Continue reading →

Bailey Leon, girl who received game ball from Saints coach Sean Payton after the Bears win, died Thursday

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman talks after an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in Chicago. The Saints won 31-15. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bailey Leon, the young girl from Rayne battling pediatric cancer who Saints coach Sean Payton honored during New Orleans’ 31-15 win at Chicago on Monday night, died Thursday at Ochsner Hospital, her family said. She was 12. Bailey was a devoted fan of the Saints and Payton, with whom she developed a friendship after meeting him. Payton… Continue reading →

Desmond Trufant, Atlanta defense wary of Drew Brees

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown(84) celebrates making a first down reception against Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant (21) during the first quarter of the NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton)  MARIETTA DAILY OUT; GWINNETT DAILY POST OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; WXIA-TV OUT; WGCL-TV OUT

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant expects to be exhausted by the end of Atlanta’s NFC South showdown Sunday at New Orleans. Drew Brees, the Saints’ eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback, is renowned for sidestepping pressure and picking defenses apart. In the series, Brees is 13-4 with 35 touchdowns and 19 interceptions and… Continue reading →

Jamarca Sanford, Terron Armstead, and Akiem Hicks miss Thursday’s practice

The Saints injury report remained the same from Wednesday’s simulated report. In the first actual practice of the week following Monday’s win over the Chicago Bears, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (ankle), offensive tackle Terron Armstead (neck) and safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) were held out of action. For Atlanta, wide receiver Julio Jones (hip) and guard Jon… Continue reading →

The Saints grade out well in win against Chicago, but the troubled Bears made some things easy

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) is sacked by New Orleans Saints inside linebackers David Hawthorne (57) and Ramon Humber (53) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

If Monday night’s win over the Chicago Bears were a scene in a sports movie, this would be the game early in the season when the team that is the subject of the movie is still trying to get it together and the New Orleans Saints would be the villainous outfit. That’s how it felt watching the… Continue reading →

In response to Keenan Lewis’ funeral remark, Falcons receiver Roddy White says Atlanta will do talking on the field

FILE - In this Aug. 8, 2013 file photo, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) smiles on the sideline during a preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Atlanta. On the eve of training camp, the Falcons have agreed to terms on a new contract with receiver White. The Falcons announced the four-year extension Thursday, July 24, 2014.   (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Roddy White said he heard Keenan Lewis say that New Orleans hoped to put the Falcons in their graves on Sunday, but the veteran Atlanta receiver preferred to wait until after the game’s opening whistle at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to offer his response to the Saints cornerback’s funeral barb. “May we rest in peace,”… Continue reading →

Video: The Saints roster has had a lot of changes since its season-opening loss to the Atlanta Falcons

In this image made with a fisheye lens, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) cheers with teammates before the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

. A person will need a scorecard when they compare the Saints roster from its 37-34 season-opening loss to its roster for Sunday's NFC South Division showdown in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Saints quarterback Drew Brees explains. Click here to see the video.Continue reading →

New Orleans Saints sign free-agent kicker Dustin Hopkins to practice squad

. The Saints filled up an open spot on their 10-man practice squad by signing free-agent kicker Dustin Hopkins. Hopkins was a former 2013 sixth-round draft selection out of Florida State for Buffalo. Click here to see the report. Continue reading →

Saints' Akiem Hicks, Terron Armstead, Jamarca Sanford remain sidelined because of injuries

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD --  New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Terron Armstead (72) protects New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) against the Minnesota Vikings during the second quarter Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Saints (6-8) did not do team drills Wednesday; but if they had, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (ankle), tackle Terron Armstead (neck) and safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) would've been sidelined because of injuries, the team said. All three played in the Saints' 31-15 victory at Chicago. But Armstead was hurt 13 snaps into the game and was… Continue reading →

Video: Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis not worried about repercussions from previous Falcons comments

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas (83) jumps by New Orleans Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis (28) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham finishes second in Pro Bowl voting at tight end

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) finds his hips but not the football after a dropped pass against the Carolina Panthers during the third quarter Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Carolina won 41-10.

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham finished 2nd in fan Pro Bowl voting for tight ends on Wednesday behind New England's Rob Gronkowski. Graham had 413,366 votes. Gronkowski leads all tight ends with 76 catches for 1,093 yards and 11 touchdowns. Graham leads the Saints with 73 catches for 782 yards and… Continue reading →

Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White says his team will do its talking on the field against the Saints on Sunday

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) walks off the field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson )

. Roddy White heard Keenan Lewis say that New Orleans hoped to put the Falcons in their graves on Sunday, but the veteran Atlanta receiver preferred to wait until after the game’s opening whistle at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to offer his response to the Saints cornerback’s funeral barb. “May we rest… Continue reading →