Errors cost Saints early, often in poor excuse for 'home' opener

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- To the New Orleans Saints, Monday
night's bizarre "home" opener was unfair from the outset. And
they played like they didn't want to be there in losing 27-10 to
the New York Giants.

"They made this seem like the Super Bowl," quarterback Aaron Brooks said of the NFL and the hoopla after New Orleans had six
turnovers and 13 penalties. "We played a team that outplayed us
today, but it was way overdone. Setting up a stage, traveling out
here, was uncalled for.

"Try not to patronize us next time, traveling us to New York,
saying we're playing a home game."

Added coach Jim Haslett: "We were in the visiting locker room,
on the visiting field. It seemed like an away game."

The Giants, visitors in name and jersey color only, had no
complaints. Playing before 68,031 of their fans, they took
advantage of New Orleans' sloppiness from the first play, a fumbled
kickoff. Tiki Barber scored two touchdowns and the defense had four

"It was supposedly their home game, but we just played like it
was our home game," said Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who
had two sacks.

NFL nomads after the damage to the Superdome and New Orleans
caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Saints were given a home game here
by the league. Historically more successful on the road under
Haslett (25-17 going in), they couldn't overcome critical mistakes
in falling to 1-1.

Efforts to make this resemble something akin to home appeared
minimal at Giants Stadium, where -- surprisingly, considering the
local team's popularity -- about 10,000 seats went unoccupied. Those
in attendance generally were dressed in Giants blue and, except for
mild applause when the entire Saints squad came onto the field
before the coin toss, they rooted for their guys.

One end zone had SAINTS painted in white and a few Saints
banners were scattered along the blue bunting on the lower level.
Other than a www.saintshurricanefund.org sign on the message board,
everything about the night said New Jersey, not New Orleans.

"It could go on and on like this, we have to take this one week
at a time," Brooks said. "At some point, it is going to wear down
on us. We've got to be strong enough and mature enough to handle
this situation and accept the responsibilities given to us."

While they could be excused if their minds were elsewhere,
Saints players have insisted that on game day, nothing distracts
them from football. It looked that way in last week's upset of
Carolina. It looked decidedly different Monday night.

"I think the guys have gone a great job of focusing on football
in practices and meetings," Haslett said. "It did not reflect
that today. It didn't carry over."

In the first half alone, the Saints committed 11 penalties for
72 yards, including an illegal contact by Sedrick Hodge that
negated a third-down sack and set up the Giants' third touchdown.

"We've been in four complexes in four weeks, I've been in three
hotels, now an apartment," Haslett noted. "But that [performance]
had nothing to do with where we live or what we do. We sucked on
that field today."

At least the Saints' other seven home games will be played
closer to home: four in Baton Rouge, La., and three in San Antonio,
where they train. For this one, they had to dress in the cramped
visitors' locker room, with a makeshift Saints sign hung above the

The Giants (2-0) benefited in every way from the NFL's decision,
beginning with the opening kickoff. Some Saints trickery
immediately backfired. Michael Lewis handed off the return to Fred McAfee, who fumbled at the 10, with Chase Blackburn recovering.
Three plays later, to tumultuous cheers for the "visitors,"
rookie Brandon Jacobs squeezed into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

Hardly the start the Saints needed, and it didn't get much
better. The Giants took a 14-0 lead on Barber's 6-yard reception.

But the Saints are nothing if not resilient, and they came back
with an 86-yard drive that was almost all Joe Horn. He had two
catches of 15 yards, then a 21-yard touchdown reception. It was
Horn whose cell phone antics in a game against the Giants two years
ago drew him a measure of fame -- and a $30,000 fine.

"They didn't just beat our butts and drag us all over the
field," Horn said. "We gave them the ball and they capitalized."

Hodge's penalty three plays after Carlos Emmons' interception
led to Barber's 12-yard run for a 21-7 New York lead. While the
Saints got closer on John Carney's 21-yard field goal near the end
of the half, their miscues continued in the second half.

Brooks' fumble set up Jay Feely's 39-yard field goal. And when
his pass deflected off Donte' Stallworth to safety Brent Alexander,
the Saints were reeling.

Carney, who kicked the winning field goal last week at Carolina,
even missed a 29-yarder, hitting the left upright. Feely then made
a 30-yarder for New York.

When Horn fumbled as he was stretching for the end zone with
3:40 to go, most of the fans headed home, quite happy to see the
visitors' victory.

"That's one of the loudest I've heard the stadium in a long
time, and it wasn't even full," Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey
said. "As players, we hear that and it really helps us out."

Game notes
Saints kick returner Michael Lewis injured a knee in the
fourth quarter and Haslett said it appeared to be serious. ... The
Saints had a five-game winning streak, dating back to last season,
snapped. ... New York's Plaxico Burress and Shockey each had five
receptions for 64 yards.Barber rushed for 83 yards. ... Horn made
nine catches for 143 yards, while Stallworth had eight for 17.6.
Saints RB Deuce McAllister set a team record for yards rushing in a
career with 4,305, beating George Rogers' mark of 4,258.


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