Saints mulling personnel changes

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METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton made it clear Monday that he is considering some personnel changes after being just as frustrated by the team's performance on film as he was following its 27-16 road loss to the St. Louis Rams a day earlier.

Payton was asked specifically about the status of left tackle Charles Brown and kicker Garrett Hartley -- and both times he declined to get into specifics. But he repeatedly made it clear that all options will be considered, especially with an upcoming game at Carolina that will make or break the Saints' chances at the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye.

If the Saints (10-4) win, they will lock up the 2-seed. If they lose to the Panthers (10-4), they'll need to win and have Carolina lose in Week 17.

"It's our jobs very quickly here with an important game coming up to make corrections -- and then also to look closely at who we're asking to do certain things," Payton said.

When asked specifically about Hartley, who missed two field goals Sunday, Payton responded with a general answer: "Listen, I think we're looking closely at every element. You know, I told the players today in the team meeting we're looking closely at each aspect of this team. And not trying to read into my answer, I just think it's important for us to do that.

"Whether it's [the kicker], the tackle position, whether it's a player on defense, the one thing I know I don't want to do is just repeat the process over and over again. So we're gonna look closely at what our options are and what gives us the best chance as we get ready to play this coming week and then obviously one week remaining."

Last month when Hartley was going through a rough patch, the Saints brought in five kickers for tryouts to update their emergency list -- including longtime veterans Neil Rackers and Shayne Graham.

Payton already took the drastic step to pull Brown during the third quarter of Sunday's game after Brown was repeatedly being burned by Rams pass-rusher Robert Quinn. But on Monday, Payton stressed that Brown wasn't the only player struggling in the game -- rattling off a laundry list of frustrations.

"In fairness to him, I think there were a lot of other things we didn't do well in that game," Payton said. "We didn't particularly run the ball efficiently. Defensively we really struggled, giving up some big plays. You know, you had the one pass [that] goes up the sidelines with eight guys watching. You have a couple long runs, missed tackles.

"The kicking game, we can't kick a field goal. You know, we have one blocked, which was a low trajectory kick. The other one we just shanked to the left. We get an onside kick against us. We're alert all week for that possibility.

"So it's hard to just say or pick out one specific player. Obviously when you're at left tackle, it becomes more glaring. ... But we'll put a lot of thought into the best approach this week as we get ready to play Carolina."

When asked how he tries to balance whether a guy just had a bad day or needs to be replaced, Payton said, "Well, it's a good question. You spend a lot of time looking at body of work, production. And I think if it's something that has repeated itself and is not going to change, then I think you look closely at what are your other options."

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