Despite being 7-0, Saints have concerns

Drew Brees sounds like a man who’s embarrassed, and not because of all the compliments he’s getting over the New Orleans Saints‘ perfect record through seven games.

The Saints‘ past two victories have been riddled with errors, starting with eight turnovers, six of which were committed by the quarterback with four interceptions and a pair of fumbles.

“You look at it – four turnovers against Miami, four again against Atlanta – and those were good football teams we played and we were able to overcome them because of great defensive play and making some big plays offensively when we had to,” Brees said. “But the fact of the matter is: That stuff gets you beat. At some point it catches up to you and we need to fix it. It’s sloppy football and it’s not what we preach around here. It’s not what we teach. It’s not how we work. So it’s a bad reflection on us and we don’t like that.”

Apparently, this 7-0 start, which matches the 1991 Saints for the best start in the franchise’s 43-year history, hasn’t gone to the heads of these Saints.

There’s still plenty of time for things to wrong, be it poor play or things that are out of the Saints‘ control, such as injuries. The 1991 Saints lost five of their last nine games, did not clinch their division until the last game of the season and lost their first playoff game.

Injuries, including starting quarterback Bobby Hebert’s shoulder sprain, contributed to that team’s slide. And as this season wears on, the Saints‘ depth is beginning to be tested as well.

Several Saints regulars sat out practice on Wednesday with injuries of varying severity.

Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis is in his second week of recovering from a right knee sprain, Kendrick Clancy had swelling in his right knee, center Jonathan Goodwin has a contusion in his right knee, linebacker Scott Fujita is in his third week recovering from a left calf strain and receiver Lance Moore has a sprained left ankle. Clancy, Goodwin and Moore all played against Atlanta.

Ellis, a 2008 first-round draft choice who has become one of New Orleans’ premier run stuffers, and Fujita, a starting strong-side linebacker, both sat out Monday night’s game.

Falcons running back Michael Turner had 151 yards rushing and a touchdown. It was by far the most yards the Saints have allowed to a single running back this season.

The Saints also have given up 68-yard touchdowns in each of the past two weeks. Miami’s Ricky Williams did it on a run as Miami jumped out to a 24-3 first-half lead. Atlanta’s Roddy White did it on a pass from Matt Ryan in the third quarter.

There were a pair of fumbles, one by Pierre Thomas and one by Mike Bell, that kept Atlanta in the game on Monday night.

“I don’t know that we’ve been playing at a high level the last couple of weeks,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “In the first half at Miami we didn’t play at a very high level and there were times (Monday night) where we didn’t play at a high level. We turned the ball over four times and we gave up some big plays. The good news is that we were able to come up with the win, but you’re not going to be able to do that very often when you have four turnovers offensively. … I think we can play a lot better than we have the last two weeks.”

Payton said he is confident that his players are responding well to criticism and remaining focused on getting better.

Midseason, he said, is not the time to step back and look at what the team has accomplished.

“Because of the work required to game plan and prepare for the next opponent, you don’t spend a lot of time reflecting,” Payton said. “When we reflect, we’re trying to really critique and really remove yourself from the win or the loss. … When you put the tape on, let’s watch what we’re seeing and find where we can improve. From this past weekend’s game, there are a lot of things that we have to do better. Not just any one thing, but a number of things.”