Although the city of New Orleans is brimming with Super Bowl expectations and excited “Who Dat!” chants, the Saints don’t have much time to bask in the glow of being a perfect 4-0 after defeating the Miami Dolphins in the spotlight of prime time television.
The Saints are now on a short week, preparing to go on the road against the 3-1 Chicago Bears this Sunday, and then visit the so far un-beaten New England Patriots.
Cornerback Jabari Greer says the time to relish Monday’s win is already over. “We watched the film and put the game to rest earlier today,” Greer said. “We started on our Chicago Bears preparation. We are already getting prepared for next week’s game.”
Getting prepared equates to identifying and correcting the weak spots.
“We’re going to try to look closely at where we need to improve,” Coach Sean Payton said. “We’re going to look at any defense we call, any coverage we call, kicking game, run or pass play we call and see if all the elements are in place. We just try to go about it that way. Now is that easier to do coming off of a win rather than coming off a loss? It probably is, but I think we have a pretty mature team. Veterans that understand you’re not just staying even: either you are getting better or you are regressing.”
Although there is much to celebrate for the Black and Gold faithful, starting with when the Saints scored against the Dolphins on the game’s first drive to the 21 un-answered points in a mid-game rally, quarterback Drew Brees says there were several missed opportunities, things that need to be corrected if the Saints want to continue their winning ways.
“We haven’t played our best football,” Brees said. “We still have a lot of room for improvement, and that’s a good thing, to be sitting here 4-0 saying we still haven’t played our best. We left some opportunities out there. We scored 38, but it should have been more. We’re going to need to be able to be able to make those plays as we progress through the season. We can’t continue to walk off the field feeling like we missed out on opportunities. We need to take advantage of them.”
One area the Saints want to step up offensively: the ground attack.
“Each week we’re looking to establish a certain type of run, whether it’s in the nickel or base, and that’s an important part of the game plan,” Payton said. “It’s something that still we’re working on and you want to avoid, more than anything, the minus plays. It’s still a work in progress and we’ll continue. It’s important to what we’re doing and we’ll continue to make the corrections and get to those looks.”
There may be room for improvement, but the Saints are also confident in their abilities.
“We’ve had more rhythm, and this is kind of a rhythm type of offense,” tight end Jimmy Graham said. “When we have that rhythm, we have a flow, and Drew plays just out of this world.”
“We are operating and playing at a high level,” Brees acknowledged. “Call anything, and it’s going to work.”
On the other side of the ball, this new Saints defense once again held an opponent to under 20 points. Greer credits the men up front.
“The way that the defensive line has been playing despite the injuries or the rotation has been really great,” Greer said. “No matter who has been in there, those guys have presented a relentless pass rush and have made our jobs on the back end a lot easier. I believe that is just the character of the defensive line room. These guys are hard working. They have nonstop motors, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to finish the play and get to the quarterback.”
This Sunday, the quarterback the Saints must find is Jay Cutler, who lost his first game of the season this past Sunday to the Detroit Lions. “Arm strength, he definitely has the command of his offense, Greer said. “He is a much improved quarterback this year in a new system.”
That new system is courtesy of the Bears new offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who coached the Saints offensive line for years before filling in as interim head coach for New Orleans last year during the Bounty suspensions. This will be the first time Kromer and the Saints meet on opposite sides of the field.