What do you say after you lose six consecutive games and fall to 2-8 with eight losses in your last nine games?
If you're the slumping Saints, you say the same things you've been saying for the past five weeks. But after Sunday's 24-17 loss to the New England Patriots, it was apparent the Saints are running out of things to say.
Week after week, they desperately try to make some sense out of what's become a weekly exercise in futility. With each loss, the answers have become standard in trying to explain how they came up short again.
On Sunday, they had a chance to take the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Patriots to overtime in Gillette Stadium. But a pair of passes into the end zone in the final 15 seconds failed to produce the touchdown they needed to perhaps snap them out of their funk.
While the ending was different -- the Saints have lost twice in the past six games by opposing field goals in the closing seconds -- the answers were the same as they have been for a while.
The Saints led in each of their last five losses until the Patriots broke the trend on Sunday -- leading 14-0 early in the second period and holding on after taking a 24-7 lead with less than eight minutes to play.
"We kept fighting and almost won," said center LeCharles Bentley, repeating a familiar refrain. "That's a testament to the team because we did some things after they got the lead. Once we adjusted to it, we started doing our thing.
"We can be proud of that. Of course, we would've liked to have won the game, but we didn't quit."
--Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks added his name to the team's record book again Sunday when he threw a pair of touchdown passes against the New England Patriots.
Both scoring passes, the 115th and 116th of Brooks' career, went to wide receiver Donte Stallworth. A 7-yarder in the second quarter pulled Brooks into a tie with Archie Manning for career TD passes, and a 12-yard shot in the final quarter gave Brooks, a seven-year veteran, the mark outright.
Manning, arguably the most popular player in franchise history, had 115 scoring passes while playing for the Saints from 1971-75 and 1977-82.
--Saints defensive end Will Smith hit the trifecta when he was called for three penalties on one play early in the fourth quarter of his team's 24-17 loss to the Patriots.
Smith was flagged for a personal foul first, and the other two were for unsportsmanlike conduct. By rule, according to referee Gerry Austin, only the first infraction was enforced.
Smith claimed a Patriots player grabbed his facemask at the end of a play and wouldn't let go, and Austin said Smith kneed the player. Smith then was flagged for arguing the call and drew a third penalty for throwing his helmet aside as he went to the sideline.
"It was a combination of things, obviously," Smith said when asked if his outburst was a product of the team's 2-8 record. "I overreacted and threw my helmet. I was frustrated because I don't think that I was being treated fairly."
--The Saints ventured into Patriots territory on eight of their 10 possessions, but scored only 17 points on two touchdowns and a field goal.
On the five trips across midfield that produced no points, they punted twice, turned the ball over on downs, had an interception and missed a 30-yard field goal.
--The Saints finished with 425 total yards, their second-best output of the season behind the 456 they had against Atlanta back on Oct. 16.
On the flip side, the Patriots' tattered defense has now allowed 400 total yards in six of its past seven games with the other opponent topping out at 394 yards.
--TE Ernie Conwell was sidelined for a second straight game Sunday because of a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Saints coach Jim Haslett said Monday that Conwell likely will miss this week's game with the New York Jets as well.
--MLB Courtney Watson did not play against the New England Patriots on Sunday because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee.
Watson, a second-year pro who started the first eight games this season, will likely miss next week's game with the Jets as well. He may require surgery, coach Jim Haslett said, if the knee doesn't respond to treatment.
--CB Fakhir Brown started for the first time since the season opener when the Saints opened in a nickel package against the Patriots. Brown missed four games with a bruised bone in his knee and played in the nickel and dime in the four games since his return.
--WLB T.J. Slaughter, who missed five straight games with a pulled abdominal muscle, was active against the Patriots and played mainly on special teams.
--RB Anthony Thomas was inactive for his first official game with the Saints after signing as a free agent on Nov. 8.