Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 11/3/11

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints celebrates after his team defeated the Indianapolis Colts during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
This time, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton wont be anywhere in reach of the Tampa Bay Bucs. Hell be safely perched in his Superdome coaches box Sunday afternoon, calling offensive plays from a distance and recovering from the torn MCL and fractured tibia he sustained when the teams met three weeks ago in Tampa. One minute, he was busy watching New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham catch a pass in the first quarter the next Graham was getting tackled into him amid a pile of bodies on the sidelines. Payton did his best to shake off the injury, calling plays from the bench until intermission, but ultimately he was knocked out of the game on a day the Bucs knocked the Saints and star quarterback Drew Brees for a loop, 26-20. Now comes Round Two, with the NFC South Division lead once again up for grabs, pitting the 5-3 Saints against the 4-3 Bucs. The thing that hurts Payton the most these days is the lingering pain from a 31-21 upset loss to the previously winless Rams last Sunday in St. Louis. Other than that, the heralded head coach is on the mend and even hopes to be able to make it down the elevator at halftime to address his team in the locker room, something he hasnt been able to do since the injury. I just had another X-Ray and things are going well, he said in a media conference call this week at One Buc Place. But theres a certain period of time you need to have before the bone fully heals. Ive spend a lot of time in the training room with the rehab and in meetings. The adjustment more than anything else as a head coach is just being really away from the team on game days. Its somewhat challenging not so much in regards to specifically offense, but really just in general of being in an area where youre used to looking and being amongst your team, as opposed to the press box. NFL rules prohibit coaches in the booth from communicating directly with players on the field through helmet earpieces, so Payton has to send his plays to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. on the sidelines, and Carmichael communicates them to Brees. Of course, that logistical issue pales in comparison to the task at hand for Payton: getting his team back on track against a Bucs team rested from a bye week and motivated by an opportunity to topple the Saints out of first, just as they did three weeks ago. Certainly we feel like we didnt play our best football (against St. Louis), he said. And we were able to look at the tape closely. That being said, we had good work (Wednesday) ... and we recognize the importance of this game in the division against Tampa Bay. The Rams managed to sack Brees six times, raising questions about the state of the Saints offensive line. And with the Bucs expecting to regain the services of top defensive tackle and top pass-rusher Gerald McCoy, after a three week absence with an ankle sprain, the O-line could again be on the hot seat. It was a tough game for us as a team, not just the offensive line, Payton remarked. St. Louis did a good job rushing the passer, and we ended up with more sacks than I think weve had here in our time-frame. Weve got to continue both as coaches and players to look at ways to help those tackles out. You know, Tampa Bay presents a great challenge in the way Michael (Bennett) is playing and Adrian (Clayborn) is playing on the edges. And I think we got into last week a lot of third down and long situations more than we had all year. Those are tough downs if youre an offensive lineman. What ended up taking place was our inability on first and second down to be productive. Payton will once again be matching wits in a gridiron chess match with Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, who calls plays for the Buc defense. Both hold each other in high regard. One thing with Raheem, hes got that enthusiasm and that passion, and I think that carries over to his players, he said. Thats the one trait youre always looking for, not only with coaches but with players as you assemble a team ... Hes done a great job since hes taken over, not only as a head coach but as a play-caller on defense. Earlier in the week, Morris had this to say about Payton: Hes a pain in my neck, but hes a phenomenal play-caller. He does a great job of setting things up. He does a great job of calling his offense and doing what they do on a consistent basis .... He does a great job with personnel. He does a great job of setting up things so you dont really know until its too late. Payton knows certain things are a given when game-planning against a team he faces twice a season: You have to recognize that (cornerback) Ronde Barber is going to watch all the snaps, and you have to recognize that (cornerback) Aqib Talib and (linebacker) Geno Hayes and (linebacker) Mason Foster and (safety) Tanard Jackson those guys on defense for Tampa are going to look closely at personnel and formations .... So you really have to look to add some wrinkles off of looks that are very predictable, and yet you do something different. Payton certainly wishes he was standing some place different along the Raymond James Stadium sidelines Oct. 16. Looking back on that snap on film, Id seen the contact coming it was right in front of me, he said. And it really wasnt until (Bucs safety) Sean Jones kind of hit that pile that all of a sudden it accelerated. Youre looking at kind of a pile coming toward you and all of sudden it accelerated quicker and you end up getting caught. At first, I didnt know if it was hurt or not. And then getting up and standing on it, I recognized that something was wrong. Payton dismissed the notion, however, that the injury and his early exit from the game had an impact on the outcome. I dont think so, he said. (The Bucs) did a great job that day and really came out and made some plays defensively and offensively, and made enough plays. They got the turnovers (intercepting Brees three times). We had a chance late in the game to go back ahead and we werent able to do it. I was able for the first half continue calling the game and then at halftime, after the X-Rays, our doctor thought there might be a facture. He was correct. And I ended up really just staying in the training room. But I think (the Bucs) played extremely well and made the plays they needed to and we didnt. Now hell be trying to call the plays that will turn the tables and nowhere near any rolling piles in his path.
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