Saints pleased, but humbled, as bye weekend passes
New Orleans (AP) — Rather than spend their week off dwelling on a
dramatic Tom Brady pass that ruined their perfect record, the New Orleans Saints are taking a realistic approach to gauging their strong
start to the 2013 season.
They were pleased to be 5-1, leading the NFC South and tied with
Seattle atop the conference as their bye week arrived.
Locker room leaders, including quarterback Drew Brees and receiver
Lance Moore, also were quick to point out the Saints could easily be
3-3, if not for last-minute successes early this season.
It took a fourth-down stand near their end zone to beat Atlanta in the
season opener. The next week, New Orleans needed a last-minute drive —
and a last-second field goal — to topple Tampa Bay in a game Brees said
the Saints "maybe had no business winning."
"So sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don't," Brees said.
"You just hope you're in a position where more of them go your way than
not, because arguably half the games in this league are decided by the
last possession, and at times the last play. You could say that
certainly that's been the case for our team. Three out of the six games
have come down to literally the last play."
The Saints have played their past three games without Moore, who
expects to return when New Orleans plays against Buffalo in the
Superdome on Oct. 27.
As much as it bothered the elder statesman of New Orleans' receiving
corps to watch from the sideline in New England, unable to help his
offense run out the clock and keep Brady off the field, he wondered
whether the loss might serve as an important motivator for a team that
could have gotten too comfortable with itself had it gone into its
short vacation at 6-0.
"It's kind of a reality check, because a couple of those games could
have gone the other direction, and I would say we're extremely
fortunate to be 5-1 and sitting in a pretty good position," Moore said.
"So I feel like we're a good team, but I feel like we can definitely be
a great team. We've got a lot of work to do to get there, a lot of
things to sharpen up on and get some guys back, myself included.
"We'll get healthier in this bye week, continue to put our foot on the
gas with the way that we work, improving every day, and I think you'll
see a pretty good finished product."
In any event, the Saints have come a long way in a year's time. In
2012, with head coach Sean Payton suspended the whole season in
connection with the NFL's bounty investigation into the Saints
defense's cash-for-hits bounty system, New Orleans opened with four
losses and never recovered, finishing 7-9 and out of the playoffs for
the first time since 2008.
Payton returned last January, and players said it wasn't long before
his contagious competitive fire and knack for Chief Executive
Officer-style quality control began to take hold again.
One of his first tasks was hiring defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to
take over a unit which ranked last in the NFL in 2012, yielding an
NFL-record 7,042 yards. Ryan's group has been more opportunistic,
coming out of Week 6 tied for sixth in takeaways with 12. New Orleans
also did not give up as many as 20 points in a game until the loss to
Meanwhile, Payton has been calling plays again for an offense which was
tied for fifth in yards per game (397.7) after six weeks.
Looking back at Payton's more recent coaching record, perhaps New
Orleans' one-year turnabout in fortune shouldn't be a surprise. Since
2009 — Payton's fourth year as a head coach and the season New Orleans
won its only Super Bowl — the Saints coach is 46-14, including 4-2 in
the playoffs. That's a winning percentage of .766.
"I'm encouraged that there are a handful of things that we're going to
be able to improve on and work on, and we haven't played our best
football and we're sitting at 5-1," Payton said. "You can easily look
at a few games that could have gone a different direction, but they
didn't. I like the work ethic, the competitive nature of this team. I
like it a lot.
" I think that getting back after this bye, there are a few things
we're going to be able to clean up and work to improve on as we get
ready for this long stretch of the season."
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