The Saints returned to practice Monday following their bye week with little hope of salvaging a miserable season after losing five consecutive games prior to their much-needed break.
Reality smacked the displaced Saints (2-7) right in the face in the first half of the season, and now they face the prospect of having to win all of their remaining games to have any hope of making the playoffs.
That rugged road begins with a visit to the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Patriots on Sunday, so the Saints know things probably will get worse before they get better.
While they've been blown out of just two games, the Saints have been frustrated by mistakes of their own doing -- penalties and turnovers have been plentiful in all but one of their nine games.
Two of their seven losses came on late field goals -- both in the final seconds of regulation. The Saints also led the Rams in the fourth quarter before turning the ball over and handing the game over.
They know that will have to end soon if they hope to have any chance of feeling better about themselves by the time the season ends. Five of their seven remaining games are against teams that currently have winning records -- including four against NFC South foes.
Coaches and players have been reluctant to blame the distractions from Hurricane Katrina on their poor play, but they won't entirely discount the storm's effect.
"In reality, it may be a factor. I can't tell you that. I'm not a psychologist," said four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Joe Horn. "But I'm not going to use that as our excuse.
"If the Saints could put together a consistent four-quarter football game, we would be 7-2 easy. We've been giving games away because of our mishaps, our inconsistencies."
--Saints cornerback Fakhir Brown, a starter until injuring his knee early in the season, was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated during the team's bye week.
Brown was charged with DWI in San Antonio on the morning of Nov. 9 after being pulled over for a moving violation, just hours before the Saints were to practice for the final time going into their bye. Brown later was released on bond.
A six-year veteran, Brown was the second Saints player to be charged with drunken driving in two weeks. Middle linebacker Courtney Watson was arrested on Oct. 26 and was demoted to the second team by coach Jim Haslett.
Saints spokesman Greg Bensel confirmed Brown's arrest and said the team's security department was reviewing the matter.
Holland was inserted into the starting lineup in the Saints' last game against the Bears on Nov. 6. Despite dropping a 20-17 decision, the Saints ran the ball well -- especially in the first half.
Haslett cited the play of Holland, who has started 23 games in his 2 1/2 seasons with the team, as a major reason for the Saints rushing for 104 yards in the first two quarters against the Bears.
"He played the best of all the linemen," Haslett said.
--The editors of Pro Football Weekly announced their Midseason All-Pro team last week, a list that surprisingly included one player from the 2-7 Saints.
Punter Mitch Berger, who is having another nice season after earning a trip to the Pro Bowl last year, was the only Saints player chosen to the all-star club.
Berger is averaging 42.7 yards per punt and has a net average of 39.8 yards. He also has had 18 punts downed inside the 20.
--MLB Courtney Watson likely will be sidelined for Sunday's game with the New England Patriots after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his knee in the Saints' last game on Nov. 6.
--TE Ernie Conwell probably will miss the Patriots game because of a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He could be out for up to three more games.
--TE Shad Meier, who did not play in the Saints' last game with the Bears because of a hip injury, likely will be questionable for Sunday's game.
--WLB T.J. Slaughter has missed the last five games with a pulled abdominal muscle and will be listed as questionable for the Patriots.
--RB Antowain Smith had a sore knee last week but should be ready for Sunday's matchup with the Patriots.
--DL Tony Bryant has a knee problem but is expected to play on Sunday against the Patriots.
--WR Nate Poole will have surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and a torn patellar tendon in his right knee.