Saints still have work to do vs. Panthers
Displeased with how the Saints have played lately, coach Sean
Payton wants to turn things around before the playoffs.
“It’s important for us to play well this week,” Payton said,
referring to the Saints’ regular-season finale at Carolina, which
is now devoid of playoff implications. “We have to find the
corrections and … view it as an opportunity for us to get things
corrected before it becomes a more important game.”
The Saints became locked in as the top seed in the NFC playoffs
when Minnesota lost at Chicago on Monday night.
In 42 previous seasons, the Saints have made the playoffs only
six times and have never been the No. 1 seed. Such an achievement
might have been easier for the Saints to enjoy if they weren’t in
the midst of a two-game losing streak.
“It’s important for us to not go on a three-game losing
streak,” Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma said. “We’re going to
have to sit down and think about what we need to do to get better
and start winning again.”
After opening the season with 13 victories, the Saints (13-2)
took their first loss against playoff-bound Dallas in stride. They
understood that it was an important game for the Cowboys, and
credited Dallas for holding on to win 24-17.
Sunday’s loss to Tampa Bay was much tougher to take. The Saints
had hoped to clinch the NFC’s top seed on the field – instead of
watching the Bears help them do it – and envisioned their last
regular-season home game ending in a celebration with their
Initially, it seemed as if that would happen as they jumped
In the end, though, the Saints walked off the Louisiana
Superdome turf embarrassed by a 20-17 overtime loss, which marked
the first time a 13-win team had lost to a team that came in with
only two victories.
“After a loss like that, you have a lot of concerns,”
linebacker Scott Fujita said. “My biggest concern is we didn’t
finish the game like we have all season. That, to me, sticks out.
… We started the game fast, which has been a problem the last
couple of weeks. But the energy just didn’t sustain and I’m a
little concerned about that. I don’t know why that happened.
“All of us didn’t play as well as we should have in the second
half. That’s all I can say,” Fujita added. “We’ll take a good
hard look at ourselves and move on from there. Obviously we’re
extremely disappointed. We lost a game (Sunday) we didn’t have any
business in losing.”
When Payton returned to the Saints’ suburban training
headquarters on Monday, he spent a couple hours going over video of
the loss to the Buccaneers, trying to identify why the Saints’
offense came up a yard short three times on drive-stalling
third-down plays, or why New Orleans’ defense had trouble stopping
Tampa Bay running backs, who combined for 176 yards rushing.
Stopping Carolina may be even tougher. The Panthers have won
impressively against Minnesota 26-7 and the New York Giants 41-9 in
the past two weeks.
The Saints, who made double-digit victories commonplace earlier
this season, haven’t beaten anyone that badly in a while now.
Before losing two in a row, New Orleans narrowly pulled out
three-point wins against non-playoff teams in Washington and
Still, Payton remained confident in his club’s ability to turn
things around before it’s too late.
“We have a smart team and they understand the challenges and
they understand that we’re going to have to play better to have
success when the second season begins,” Payton said. “Ultimately,
they also realize that this team will be measured on how we play in
the postseason. I think what’s most important is for all of us to
closely look at some things that we have to get back to doing that
we’ve done earlier in the year or in any of our wins.”