“I’m getting ready. We’re getting close; six, seven weeks away. We’re going to pre-natal classes. It’s exciting stuff.” BRIAN DE LA PUENTE Saints center on the upcoming birth of his son
Three days after getting “Brady-ed’’ during the final frenetic seconds at New England, New Orleans Saints center Brian de la Puente said he is looking forward to a promising second half to the season and a very special delivery.
Around Dec. 9, de la Puente and his wife, Makenzie, will welcome their first child into the world, a baby boy whose name will remain a secret until the appropriate time. By then, the NFC South-leading Saints should have a better feel about where they stack up in the playoff picture.
In the meantime, they are 5-1 after Tom Brady’s 17-yard scoring toss to wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds remaining gave the Patriots an improbable 30-27 victory Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Saints coach Sean Payton gave his players off this week. They will return to practice Monday in preparation for the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 27 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
De la Puente spent part of Wednesday morning at WRBH-FM, 88.3 radio for the blind and print handicapped, where he participated in the station’s annual “New Orleans Celebrity Holiday Story” program.
He read “Frosty the Snowman’’ to be aired at a future date.
“It’s good practice,’’ de la Puente said. “While I was reading the book, I kept thinking it won’t be long now for us. I’m getting ready. We’re getting close; six, seven weeks away. We’re going to pre-natal classes. It’s exciting stuff.”
And so is the second part of the Saints schedule, which features a crucial four-game stretch in Weeks 10-13 against Dallas (Nov. 10, NBC) and San Francisco (Nov. 17) at home, and Atlanta (Nov. 21, NFL Network) and Seattle (Dec. 2, ESPN) on the road.
But first things first, de la Puente said
“We want to stay away from the big picture,’’ he said. “We have 16, one-game seasons. My mom always said when I was a kid, ‘Take care of the little things, and the big things will take care of themselves.’ That really holds true for this whole football thing.
“If we take care of each individual week and don’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of the whole season, you can really start to stack up those good weeks of work. If you look at the whole picture, it can be overwhelming. It’s a big task. Right now, we have one game — against Buffalo — and that’s all we care about.”
The Saints coaching staff will use the off week to self-scout, chart tendencies and explore ways to improve in every phase, particularly on offense, where the ground game has struggled to establish consistency over the first six games.
They currently rank 23rd in the NFL in rushing offense (86.7 yards per game) and 28th in average yards per carry (3.42), thanks in part to a productive second half against the Patriots. After picking up 19 yards rushing on six carries (3.2-yards per carry) in the first half, the Saints rolled up 112 yards on 20 attempts (5.6 ypc) in the second half.
“We use a term around the facility: ‘midstream adjust,’” de la Puente said. “That’s when things aren’t exactly what you expected, and you adjust and put yourselves in the best position to win. We had a good game plan coming, and we wanted to lean on certain plays. But we ended up leaning on different plays: runs against their nickel packages.”
Veteran running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles continue to get the bulk of the work in the absence of injured running Mark Ingram, who missed his fourth consecutive game with an injured toe.
Rookie Khiry Robinson led the second-half charge against New England, contributing a team-high 53 yards rushing and his first NFL touchdown, a 3-yard run in the third quarter. Second-year running back Travaris Cadet also scored his first NFL touchdown — on a 3-yard pass from quarterback Drew Brees in the first quarter.
“We need to be more efficient, more productive in our runs,’’ de la Puente said. “Coach Payton tries to balance our offense with a lot of short passes as kind of our running game, little stuff to Sproles to Pierre in the screen game.
“But when the run plays are called, we need to be more efficient, more productive and keep the minus plays to a minimum. That means 11 guys doing the right thing at the same time. When everybody does the right thing, it’s a special thing.”
De la Puente paused, then continued.
“It still stings,’’ he said. “We would have loved to take a knee and close the game out on offense and get a big win on the road against a team that doesn’t lose at home. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it done.
“When you watch the tape, the run game is close; a block here, a cut there. It’s close, which is encouraging because we have so much potential on offense. We just got to keep our heads down and not listen to the noise; trust our technique, trust our scheme, trust our guys, and trust that it can be and will be successful.”