Dec 2, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II (14) and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (55) during the first half at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Saints RB Mark Ingram (knee) out for finale

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II was ruled out of Sunday’s regular-season finale against the host Atlanta Falcons because of a knee injury.

Ingram had been questionable in advance of Sunday’s game, which the Saints need to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. New Orleans also would need the Los Angeles Rams to defeat the San Francisco 49ers to make the playoffs.

Ingram did not play in last week’s game against the Carolina Panthers. He has rushed for 554 yards on 160 carries with two touchdowns for the Houston Texans and Saints this season. He has 260 yards on 68 carries in seven games (three starts) since returning to the Saints for a Week 8 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

New Orleans did activate right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (knee) to the active roster. Defensive end Marcus Davenport (ankle) also was ruled active after he was listed as questionable this week.

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (14) celebrates after a touchdown during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Saints RB Mark Ingram lands on COVID list

New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram is headed to the reserve/COVID-19 list following a positive test, The Times-Picayune reported Wednesday.

The Saints placed defensive end Cameron Jordan on the list Monday.

Ingram is vaccinated, according to the report, which means he can return after receiving two negative test results 24 hours apart.

It’s unlikely he would be cleared in time for Sunday’s game between the Saints (5-7) and host New York Jets (3-9). New Orleans is on a four-game losing streak.

Ingram, 31, joined the Saints in an Oct. 29 trade with the Houston Texans. He has rushed for 233 yards and one TD and has 18 catches for 130 yards in five games since returning to New Orleans, where he played from 2011-18.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection has accumulated 9,900 yards from scrimmage with 74 touchdowns in 144 career games with the Saints, Baltimore Ravens (2019-20) and Texans.

Ingram’s potential absence comes as running back Alvin Kamara reportedly returned to practice Wednesday after missing the last four games with a knee injury.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) gestures on the line of scrimmage against the Kansas City Chiefs during the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys, Saints meet in matchup of short-handed teams

The Dallas Cowboys have seen their lead in the NFC East shrink and they’re battling COVID-19 issues.

The New Orleans Saints are sliding down the NFC wild-card standings and they’re battling a bunch of injuries.

The short-handed and struggling teams will meet Thursday night in New Orleans.

The Cowboys (7-4), whose 3 1/2-game lead in the division has shrunk to two games after a 1-3 stretch, won’t have head coach Mike McCarthy on the sideline after he tested positive for COVID.

Defensive coordinator and former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn will be the interim head coach, although McCarthy is participating virtually in meetings and game preparations.

Right tackle Terence Steele, rookie cornerback Nahshon Wright and five assistant coaches, including offensive line coach Joe Philbin and assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko, will miss the game after testing positive for COVID.

The status of wide receiver Amari Cooper, who is unvaccinated and missed the last two games after testing positive, was undetermined, although receiver CeeDee Lamb is expected to return after a one-game absence caused by a concussion. Dallas also expects the return of defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who has been sidelined since sustaining a fractured foot before the season’s second game.

“We know what we’re capable of,” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said. “We know the team we have. The most important thing is just our belief in each other. That’s not going anywhere. It’s not fading.”

Dallas has rushed for fewer than 100 yards in four of the last five games and it averaged just 3.2 yards per carry against the Raiders.

“We’ve obviously been very successful running the football in the first part of the season, so people are gearing up for it,” McCarthy said. “We need to stay on top of our self-scout because I think just like anything at this point in the year people are locked into your formations and your run tendencies and when we run and how we run.”

New Orleans (5-6) is considering starting Taysom Hill at quarterback in hopes of a spark that might end a four-game losing streak.

The last time the Saints won a game was Oct. 31, the day when Jameis Winston sustained a season-ending knee injury against Tampa Bay.

Trevor Siemian has started in Winston’s place while Hill was recovering from a concussion and a foot injury, the latter of which isn’t fully healed although Hill practiced fully on Tuesday.

“It’s no secret that we need to improve in a lot of different areas to put some points on the board,” New Orleans tackle Terron Armstead said. “It’s not just one position group, we have to collectively be better and put more points on the board.”

Armstead and fellow tackle Ryan Ramczyk missed practice Tuesday because of knee injuries. Running back Alvin Kamara practiced on a limited basis after missing the last three games because of a knee ailment.

The Saints have won four consecutive NFC South titles, but their chances of catching first-place Tampa Bay are fading.

“We all get into sudden death once you hit Jan. 5,” Armstead said. “It doesn’t really matter where you play or who you play.

“We’ve been a number one or two seed and exited in the first round, but we’ve also been to the NFC championship, Super Bowl, and all of those good things. We just have to make sure we’re ready for the tournament though, not just sneak in or have some teams lose to let us get in, none of that. We have to put ourselves where we belong.”

–Field Level Media

Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) attempts a pass against the New York Giants during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Transitioning Patriots, Saints look for more offense

As the NFL’s highest-scoring teams over the past decade, the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints are in unfamiliar territory these days as they prepare to meet Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Mass.

Since 2010 they are the only teams to score more than 5,000 points, as the Patriots have scored 5,087 and the Saints have scored 5,021.

But both teams are going through an offensive transition, most notably at quarterback, and in this young season both teams are in the bottom half of the league in scoring.

The Patriots (1-1), in their second season since Tom Brady departed for Tampa Bay, are led by rookie Mac Jones and rank 23rd in scoring (20.5 points per game).

The Saints (1-1), in their first season since Drew Brees’ retirement, have turned to Jameis Winston and are tied for 18th in scoring (22.5). Winston, notably, was released by the Buccaneers to make room for Brady, and became the first quarterback other than Brees to be New Orleans’ Week 1 starter since 2005.

Jones has been more efficient than bold in his first two games. He has completed 73.9 percent of his passes for 467 yards with just one touchdown but no interceptions, as New England ranks 25th in passing offense (213.5 yards per game, including sacks).

“There are some times that I watch the film and wish I threw the ball down the field more,” Jones admitted.

But ball security made a big difference last Sunday when Jones competed against fellow first-round pick Zach Wilson, who threw four interceptions as the Patriots beat the Jets 25-6.

“Sometimes, you need to know when to call it quits (on a play),” Jones said. “It’s all about trial and error … stick to my reads. Plays will come.”

Winston threw five touchdowns and no interceptions as New Orleans began the season with a 38-3 thrashing of Green Bay in Jacksonville, Fla., when Hurricane Ida forced the game to be moved from New Orleans.

But last week, Winston and the entire Saints team were overwhelmed in a 26-7 loss at Carolina. Winston completed 11 of 22 for 111 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was pressured throughout the game and was sacked four times.

“The biggest thing is being better in first-down and second-down efficiency,” Winston said. “Understanding just because you’re capable of making a play doesn’t mean you should make it.”

Despite the high-scoring game against the Packers, New Orleans ranks last in the NFL in passing offense (115.5).

“It’s the group in its entirety,” head coach Sean Payton said of the passing shortcomings. “It’s our offensive line, our quarterback. It’s also us, relative to a gameplan of having good answers. We need to have a better plan and that starts with me.”

The Saints were missing nine players due to injury against the Panthers, but center Erik McCoy (calf) was the only player to miss practice entirely Wednesday.

The Patriots got back linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who missed the game against the Jets because of a throat condition, but linebacker Matt Judon missed practice Wednesday because of a knee injury.

The Saints were missing eight assistant coaches against Carolina due to NFL coronavirus protocols. They stayed behind in Fort Worth, Texas, where the team has been practicing since evacuating ahead of Ida.

It’s unclear how many of them will be available for the game against the Patriots, though Payton said Wednesday that several of them will be available because they will be beyond the 10-day infectious period by game day.

The team is scheduled to return to their home practice facility in Metairie, La., after Sunday’s game and play their first game actual home game of the season in the Superdome on the following Sunday, Oct. 3, against the New York Giants.

–Field Level Media