The Saints' mourning period not quite over for New Orleans after its first loss of the season.
By JENNIFER HALEFS Southwest
Monday's atmosphere at
Saints Camp was dripping with disappointment after Sunday's 30-27 last-minute defeat in New England. The players reconvened for a conditioning session of running laps and lifting weights after a late-night arrival home in New Orleans, and it was evident the mourning period wasn't over.
Drew Brees was still stewing over the loss, explaining he gives himself 24 hours to let a game mentally marinate. He's going to need every second to flush this defeat away.
"I think what it comes down to is just the fact that we gave them three opportunities at a two minute drive. You give Tom Brady that many chances, he's going to make you pay," Brees said. "For us offensively, you just look at it and say, 'What could I have done differently? What could we have done differently when the defense got that first stop? Maybe just get one first down.' They had all three time outs and the two minute warning, so it seemed like everything kind of fell right into place for them trying to salvage time. For us, we've got to be able to close the game out."
The loss spoiled the Saints perfect record, leaving them 5-1. That is going to sting for awhile.
"Coach Belichick is so good at what he does. We knew he was going to come in with some sort of a plan to eliminate somebody or something from our offense, but we still had a chance to win," wide receiver Lance Moore said. "That's all you can ask for is to be in position at the end of the game whether it's offense going down to score or defense having an opportunity to stop them. It just seemed to work out in their favor this time."
Meanwhile Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was unusually chatty after New England's last second heroics lifted them over the Saints. Belichick was obviously reveling in the tangible proof that he can still roll the dice on Tom Brady's abilities and more often than not end up with a winning hand.
Belichich also had plenty of praise for the Saints as well.
"Sorry if you had to rewrite some of those stories at the end," Belichick told reporters in his post game news conference. "What a football game. I felt like it took five years off my life. I'm really proud of my football team. Obviously we played a real good football team: the Saints are a real good football team. It was a great sixty minute battle. They made a lot of plays, we made some plays. In the end, we made a big one similar to the one they made to put them ahead."
While the frustration was palpable inside the Black and Gold's locker room Monday, there were also tinges of optimism about what the future holds.
Of course, the Saints would much rather be 6-0 right now, but they knew the past 2 weeks would be brutal: on the road first against a tough Chicago Bears and then Patriots.
Chicago was the more crucial game because they're the NFC opponent.
The Patriots are AFC, so as far as the quest to be part of the playoff picture, this loss stings less than one to the Bears would have.
The Saints and Seahawks now both sit at 5-1, so that Monday night showdown on December 2 in Seattle against the Hawks could be crucial.
If Saints head coach Sean Payton could change one thing about Sunday's game - he would have run the ball more in the first half. The Saints ran the ball 26 times overall and threw it 36 times. The Patriots won the time of possession battle by almost 4 minutes, so a more robust rushing attack might have evened that out more.
Overall, Payton says this team has played solid football for six weeks, football they can build on. He's confident that the team's best days are ahead.
"I said this to the players today: I'm encouraged that there are a handful of things that we're going to be able to improve on, we haven't played our best football yet and yet we're sitting at 5-1," Payton said. "You could easily look at a few games that may have gone the other direction, but they didn't. I like the work ethic and the competitive nature of this team. I like it a lot. I think that getting back after this bye, there are a few things that we're going to be able to clean up and improve on, as we get ready to hit this long stretch of the season."
The Saints now begin their much-needed bye week, enjoying a long break until next Monday. It's a good chance for a lot of bumps and bruises to heal and for the Black and Gold to get re-set mentally.
"This is good timing in that we're going to be able to get some guys healthy," Brees said. "We've had some guys dinged up: Roman Harper, Lance Moore, Mark Ingram. They've missed some time, and we're looking forward to getting them back. We'll use this to our advantage. Also, it's a good break in the season - in that we went through training camp, then we had 4 pre season games and then 6 regular season games. It's really been ten games since we've had a break like this. Now we're going into ten more games of the regular season, and then hopefully more, when it's time to make that late season run."
Another player who could use the time off to rest his battered body: Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.
Doctors performed an MRI on his injured foot Monday - per several league sources.
Graham injured his foot towards the end of the battle with the Patriots, leaving the field early.
New England Cornerback Aqib Talib was largely responsible for stifling Graham all game - leaving him without a catch for the first time since his rookie year.