Nov 25, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is honored at halftime of the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Buffalo Bills at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Brees denies being struck by lightning

PointsBet USA said Friday it was monitoring reports that retired NFL great Drew Brees was struck by lightning in South American while filming a commercial for the sportsbook.

“We are aware of the media coverage regarding PointsBet brand ambassador Drew Brees,” PointsBet USA posted to its official Twitter account. “We are in communication with Brees’ team and will continue to monitor events throughout the coming hours. At this stage we will not be making any further comment.”

ESPN’s Saints team reported said Friday she exchanged text messages with Brees and there was no truth to the report.

“He said he’s good and that he did not get struck by lightning,” she wrote, as rumors began to spread on social media that the story was concocted to advertise PointsBet’s “lightning bets” feature.

Grainy video was posted to Twitter overnight that was shot in the dark, reportedly in Venezuela. It showed a film crew, with Brees on a television monitor, scurrying about in the brief video, with thunder heard in the background and lightning in the area. After a loud clap of thunder, the video went dark.

Brees tweeted on Tuesday that he was heading to “a top-secret location later this week” to shoot a new promotional video for PointsBet USA. He signed with the sportsbook in July 2021.

Brees, 43, retired following the 2020 season — his 20th in the NFL. He threw for 80,358 yards and 571 touchdowns — second only to Tom Brady in both categories — for the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints. A 13-time Pro Bowl selection, he led the Saints to a win in Super Bowl XLIV.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Rashid Shaheed (89) stands on the field after an incomplete pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Below-.500 Bucs shoot to get moving against Saints

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a losing record, but they still lead the NFC South.

The New Orleans Saints have an even worse record, but are still in contention for the division title.

Two teams will try and strengthen their playoff chances when they meet Monday night in Tampa, Fla.

The Buccaneers (5-6) are the defending division champion and had won two consecutive games to get to .500 before losing at Cleveland 23-17 in overtime last Sunday.

“We’ve got to come ready for a dogfight,” Tampa Bay running back Rachaad White said. “That’s what this game is about, what this division is about regardless of records.”

The Bucs are two games ahead of the Saints (4-8), who have their bye next week, in the loss column. They also have a leg up in the head-to-head tie-breaker because they beat New Orleans 20-10 in Week 2, but the Saints can negate that with a win Monday night.

“At this point we understand every week is a big game,” Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles said. “Every game we play from here on out is going to be a big game for us.”

The Saints have lost two games in a row and have yet to win consecutive games this season.

“I think the important thing is that you’re still in the hunt,” Saints tackle James Hurst said. “We could be 10-1 or whatever and if the rest of your division is 9-2 you’re still in the same circumstance.”

A loss to the Bucs would leave the Saints with no margin for error with four games remaining. But a victory would keep them in the thick of the division race and they still have head-to-head opportunities against second-place Atlanta (5-7) and Carolina (4-8).

“We’re going to go out and compete our (butts) off and see what happens,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said. “I don’t think we can pay attention to the standings too much. We just need to focus on ourselves and improving our football team.”

New Orleans is coming off a 13-0 loss at San Francisco last Sunday, which ended a streak of 332 consecutive games in which the Saints had not been shut out.

Tampa Bay had a similar experience the last time it hosted the Saints. New Orleans won 9-0 last December, marking the first time Bucs quarterback Tom Brady had been shut out as a starter in 256 games.

Both teams have lengthy injury lists. The Saints had 15 players on their list Thursday, but they’re hopeful that two key starters — cornerback Marshon Lattimore and linebacker Pete Werner — might be able to play.

Lattimore (abdomen) has missed the last seven games and Werner (ankle) has missed the last three games, but both practiced on a limited basis.

Tampa Bay, which listed 10 players, knows that star tackle Tristan Wirfs is going to miss multiple weeks because of an ankle injury suffered last week.

Four other starters didn’t practice — safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) and Mike Edwards (hamstring), nose tackle Vita Vea (foot) and tight end Cameron Brate (illness).

Running back Leonard Fournette (hip) participated fully after missing last week’s game. Two other starters that did not play last week — wide receiver Russell Gage (hamstring) and guard Luke Goedeke (foot) — were limited.

–Field Level Media

November 27, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) passes the football against the New Orleans Saints during the second quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Niners hand Saints first shutout loss since 2001

Jimmy Garoppolo passed to Jauan Jennings for the game’s only touchdown and the host San Francisco 49ers handed the New Orleans Saints their first shutout in more than 20 years 13-0 on Sunday.

Robbie Gould added two field goals and Garoppolo completed 26 of 37 passes for 222 yards as the 49ers (7-4) won their fourth consecutive game.

Andy Dalton completed 18 of 29 for 204 yards, but Alvin Kamara had just 50 yards from scrimmage and lost two crucial fumbles for the Saints (4-8).

New Orleans reached a first-and-goal twice in the fourth quarter, trying to avoid the shutout and pull within one score, but the 49ers defense stood strong both times.

It was the first time New Orleans failed to score in 333 games, dating to Week 17 of the 2001 season against the 49ers.

On the first possession of the second half, the 49ers drove 47 yards to Gould’s 46-yard field goal that increased their lead to 13-0.

New Orleans drove to the San Francisco 35, looking for the first second-half points against the 49ers in four games. The Saints lined up to go for fourth and 5, but committed a false start and Wil Lutz missed a 48-yard field goal.

That enabled the 49ers to take the 13-0 lead into the fourth quarter.

New Orleans reached the San Francisco 6, but Kamara fumbled after a pass reception and Dre Greenlaw recovered for the 49ers at the 1.

The Saints reached the 4 on their next possession, but on fourth down, Dalton was sacked by Joey Bosa.

The first possession of the game ended when Kamara fumbled and Samson Ebukam recovered for the 49ers at the Saints 43. Eleven plays later, Gould kicked a 24-yard field goal and the 3-0 lead held up through the end of the first quarter.

The 49ers defense forced a three-and-out and the offense took over at their 43 after the punt. Nine players later, Garoppolo threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jennings with 13 seconds left, increasing the lead to 10-0 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2022; Mexico City, MEXICO; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) celebrates his touchdown reception against the Arizona Cardinals with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) during the second quarter at Estadio Azteca. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Saints getting healthy but face tough battle with surging 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback when the season began.

Andy Dalton wasn’t the New Orleans Saints starting quarterback when the season began.

But both quarterbacks have settled into starting positions as the 49ers and Saints prepare to meet Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.

Garoppolo was backing up Trey Lance until Lance suffered a season-ending fractured ankle in the second game of the season. Garoppolo has started the past eight games and helped lead San Francisco (6-4) to three consecutive victories and a tie with Seattle atop the NFC West.

He completed 20 of 29 passes for 228 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in a 38-10 victory over Arizona on Monday night in Mexico City.

“He is such a talented quarterback,” said running back Christian McCaffrey, who caught seven passes from Garoppolo for 67 yards and ran for 39 yards on seven carries against the Cardinals. “He is a great leader, super smart, can make any throw and just a great guy to be around. It’s been a lot of fun to be able to pick his brain and mesh with him.”

The 49ers’ surge has come since the acquisition of McCaffrey in a trade with Carolina to join an offense that already featured Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle.

San Francisco leads the NFL in total defense (283.9 yards per game) and is fourth in scoring defense (17.3 points per game). The 49ers are allowing the fewest rushing yards per game (81.1) and the fewest yards per rush (3.4).

“It’s very rare when you look at the tape that there’s one person in the screen,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s almost every play that there are 11 people on the screen. They’re playing well together.”

The Saints offense has been inconsistent this season. Starting quarterback Jameis Winston was injured during a season-opening win at Atlanta, then battled through losses to Tampa Bay and Carolina before Dalton took over.

New Orleans (4-7) won just two of Dalton’s first seven starts and head coach Dennis Allen considered returning to Winston after Dalton threw two interceptions in a 20-10 loss at Pittsburgh two weeks ago.

But Allen stayed with Dalton, who had one of the most efficient performances of his career last week. Dalton completed 21 of 25 passes for 260 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 27-20 home victory against the Los Angeles Rams.

“The way we played last week, we were able to get the ball out of my hand quickly and guys were getting open at the right time,” Dalton said. “We executed really well from that standpoint. It just comes down to playing in rhythm and playing on time.”

The Saints have yet to win consecutive games this season, but they sit in third place in the NFC South, just two games behind first-place Tampa Bay in the loss column.

New Orleans has seen an inordinate number of key players sidelined by injury this season, but the participation report Wednesday showed progress.

Five starters who had been sidelined returned on a limited basis — cornerback Marshon Lattimore (abdomen), defensive ends Cameron Jordan (eye) and Marcus Davenport (calf), tackle James Hurst (concussion) and guard Andrus Peat (triceps).

“When you get guys back out there, everybody gets a lift,” Allen said.

The 49ers had just four players on their injury report, including Samuels (hamstring), who was limited.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Andy Dalton (14) warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Dalton throws three TD passes as Saints defeat Rams

Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes as the host New Orleans Saints defeated the Los Angeles Rams 27-20 on Sunday afternoon.

Dalton completed 21 of 25 passes for 260 yards as the Saints (4-7) prevailed in a battle of injury-plagued teams.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, who missed the Rams’ loss to Arizona last week because of a concussion, left this game in the third quarter to be evaluated for a possible concussion and did not return.

Stafford, who completed 11 of 18 for 159 yards with two touchdowns, was replaced by Bryce Perkins, who completed 5 of 10 pass attempts for 64 yards and rushed five times for 39 yards.

Los Angeles (3-7) lost for the sixth time in seven games.

On the first possession of the third quarter, Dalton threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry to give New Orleans a 17-14 lead.

On the Saints next possession, Dalton threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to rookie Chris Olave for a 24-14 lead at the end of the third quarter. Olave finished with game highs of five catches and 102 receiving yards.

Perkins’ first drive produced a 33-yard field goal by Matt Gay that trimmed the deficit to 24-17.

Wil Lutz’s 25-yard field goal increased New Orleans’ lead to 27-17 and Gay kicked a 58-yarder with six seconds left.

The Saints drove to the Rams 13 midway through the first quarter, and after consecutive sacks, Lutz kicked a 46-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

On the first play after the kickoff, Stafford threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to TuTu Atwell to give the Rams a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Dalton threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Juwan Johnson to give New Orleans a 10-7 lead.

On the ensuing possession Los Angeles reached Saints territory but on fourth-and-1, Kyren Williams was stopped for a 1-yard loss at the 36.

The Rams got the ball back on a punt and drove 87 yards, and Stafford threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Allen Robinson II to take a 14-10 halftime lead.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) does the Who Dat chant before the game against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Saints DE Cameron Jordan (eye) ruled out vs. Rams

New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the visiting Los Angeles Rams due to an eye injury.

Sitting out a regular-season game is a rare occurrence for Jordan. The only other NFL game that he had missed in his career was in Week 14 of the 2021 season after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Also on Friday, the Saints (3-7) ruled out the following players against the Rams (3-6): cornerback Marshon Lattimore (abdomen), running back Mark Ingram (knee), offensive tackle James Hurst (concussion), linebacker Pete Werner (ankle), defensive end Marcus Davenport (calf) and safety J.T. Gray (hamstring).

Guard Andrus Peat (triceps) was listed as questionable after being limited in practice on Friday.

Jordan, 33, has 5.5 sacks and 42 tackles in 10 games (all starts) this season.

A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Jordan has 112.5 sacks and 615 tackles in 186 career games (185 starts) since being selected by the Saints with the 24th overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft.

As for the Rams, their makeshift offensive line took another hit as coach Sean McVay said center Brian Allen (thumb) has been ruled out of Sunday’s game.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) is sacked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches (56) in the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Hobbled Rams, Saints enter survival mode

The Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl last season.

The New Orleans Saints had a winning record in each of the last five seasons.

Understandably high expectations ushered the franchises into the 2022 season.

But as they prepare to meet Sunday in New Orleans, both the Rams (3-6) and the Saints (3-7) have been hampered significantly by injuries and desperately need a win if they hope to turn their seasons in a positive direction.

“You’ve got to be more process-oriented than ever before,” Los Angeles coach Sean McVay said. “It’s easy to say that when things are going well, and now you really get forced to kind of put it to the test.”

Things got worse for the Rams this week when star wide receiver Cooper Kupp underwent ankle surgery that will sideline him indefinitely.

“We have to figure out how to accentuate the skill sets of the guys that will be playing,” McVay said.

The Rams also lost two starting offensive linemen because of health issues. Tackle Alaric Jackson will miss the rest of the season because of blood clots and guard Chandler Brewer will miss four to six weeks because of a knee injury.

Los Angeles did receive some good news Wednesday when quarterback Matthew Stafford, who had been in concussion protocol, practiced fully.

New Orleans is without former All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas due to foot surgery and top cornerback Marshon Lattimore and starting linebacker Pete Werner remained sidelined.

“I told the team, ‘Man, there’s got to be a sense of urgency in everything we do,” head coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ve got to get some things corrected, and there has to be a sense of urgency about doing that. And what we’ve done to this point has not been good enough.

“And so we keep doing the same things and expect it to be different, that’s the definition of insanity. So we’ve got to change the way we prepare, we’ve got to change the way we get ready to play a game. That’s coaches, players, that’s all of us because it hasn’t been up to the standard that we have here.”

After poor offensive performances in consecutive losses to Baltimore (27-13) and at Pittsburgh last Sunday (20-10) Allen pondered benching quarterback Andy Dalton and returning to Jameis Winston, who was sidelined after three games because of a back injury but has been cleared to play.

“We’re going to go with Andy,” Allen said after practice Wednesday. “We discussed it as a staff. I got an opportunity to talk to both quarterbacks, and I feel like right now, Andy is the direction that we want to go.”

Dalton will try to get the offense back on track while playing without a majority of his starting offensive linemen.

Left tackle James Hurst, who was sidelined by a concussion during last week’s game, didn’t practice Wednesday, nor did left guard Andrus Peat, who missed last week’s game because of a triceps injury.

Center Josh Andrews, who moved into the starting lineup when Erik McCoy went on injured reserve last week, missed practice because of illness, as did right tackle Ryan Ramczyk.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  Houston Texans running back David Johnson (31) runs as Tennessee Titans linebacker Harold Landry (58) gives chase during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Saints add RB David Johnson to practice squad

The New Orleans Saints are signing veteran running back David Johnson, a former All-Pro, to their practice squad, ESPN reported Wednesday.

A free agent, Johnson tried out with New Orleans before the season opened but couldn’t come to contract terms.

Johnson, who turns 31 next month, was a third-round draft pick of the Cardinals in 2015. He spent his first five NFL seasons in Arizona and was part of the March 2020 trade with the Texans that sent him to Houston and receiver DeAndre Hopkins west.

He could be moved to the active roster in time for Sunday’s game when the Saints (3-7) host the Los Angeles Rams (3-6). He would back up Alvin Kamara as Mark Ingram II continues his recovery from a knee injury.

Last season with the Texans, Johnson appeared in 13 games (four starts) and gained 453 yards from scrimmage with one touchdown.

His best NFL season came in 2016, when he led the NFL with 2,118 total yards from scrimmage and scored 20 touchdowns.

For his career, Johnson has 4,047 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns. He’s added 2,758 receiving yards and 18 scores.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) looks for a receiver against the New Orleans Saints during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Kenny Pickett, George Pickens power Steelers past Saints

Rookies Kenny Pickett and George Pickens each ran for a touchdown, and the host Pittsburgh Steelers rode their defense to a 20-10 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Pickett completed 18 of 30 passes for 199 yards for the Steelers, whose two rushing touchdowns were all the scoring the team needed. Pittsburgh totaled 217 yards on the ground and shut out New Orleans in the second half.

The Steelers (3-6), rejuvenated by the return of linebacker T.J. Watt and safety Damontae Kazee from injured reserve, held the Saints to 186 yards for their first victory since Oct. 16.

Andy Dalton completed 17 of 27 passes for 174 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for New Orleans (3-7).

The Steelers drove to the 10-yard line before a sack halted the drive to start the third quarter. Matthew Wright, signed from Kansas City’s practice roster this week to replace injured Chris Boswell, missed a 39-yard field-goal attempt.

That was the only scoring opportunity in the third quarter as the teams carried a 10-10 halftime tie into the fourth quarter.

Pittsburgh reached the New Orleans 12 before Pickett was sacked. Wright kicked a 33-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 13-10 lead with 13:43 remaining.

Kazee, who hadn’t played since the preseason, intercepted Dalton and Pittsburgh took over at the Saints’ 44. That led to Pickett’s 1-yard touchdown run and a 20-10 lead with 8:38 left.

Levi Wallace intercepted Dalton with 4:23 remaining.

Pickens scored from 1 yard out for a touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 7-0 lead with 5:06 left in the first quarter.

The Steelers increased the lead to 10-0 early in the second quarter when Wright made a 33-yard field goal.

After punting on their first three possessions, the Saints drove 40 yards to set up Wil Lutz’s 44-yard field goal, trimming the lead to 10-3.

Dalton threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Juwan Johnson with 19 seconds left in the quarter, producing the 10-all halftime tie.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Jarvis Landry (5) runs with the ball against the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Saints WR Jarvis Landry (ankle) expected to return vs. Steelers

Receiver Jarvis Landry is expected to return from an ankle injury when the New Orleans Saints visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Landry has missed the past five games due to the injury. He was a limited practice participant all week and didn’t receive a status designation on Friday.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection was injured during the Week 3 contest against the Carolina Panthers. He attempted to play through the injury against the Minnesota Vikings before being sidelined for more than a month.

Landry, who turns 30 on Nov. 28, has 15 receptions for 168 yards this season in his first season with the Saints. Overall, he has 703 catches for 7,766 yards and 37 touchdowns in nine NFL seasons with the Miami Dolphins (2014-17), Cleveland Browns (2018-21) and New Orleans.

The Saints ruled out five players for the game against Pittsburgh: running back Mark Ingram II (knee), cornerback Marshon Lattimore (abdomen), center Erik McCoy (calf), guard Andrus Peat (triceps) and linebacker Pete Werner (ankle).

Listed as questionable for New Orleans are defensive ends Marcus Davenport (calf) and Tanoh Kpassagnon (illness) and safeties Marcus Maye (abdomen) and P.J. Williams (illness).

–Field Level Media