Only a week ago, the outlook for the rest of the Saints’ season seemed optimistic, a team on a run with a favorable schedule on the horizon.
A loss to Tennessee changed the picture a bit.
Now, New Orleans heads into Sunday’s matchup with the Washington Redskins with its eyes set on recapturing the momentum it had during a stretch when the Saints won four of five and fought their way back into the playoff discussion.
“We definitely want to get back to .500,” defensive end Cam Jordan said. “You never want to lose one, especially to the team we just lost to. You face elite talent every week, but we made (Titans quarterback Marcus) Mariota look way, way, way better than we should have. That’s just something we have to stomach for the week.”
The loss to Tennessee shrunk the Saints’ margin for error.
New Orleans still faces a favorable schedule. The seven teams left on the Saints’ schedule are a combined 26-31, leaving open an opportunity to get back into the playoff race.
Before the Saints can start worrying about the big-picture, though, New Orleans needs to focus on getting back on a roll with a win over Washington.
“Every game is critical, especially at the point in the season that we are at,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “We had a good little streak going, but you can’t cry over spilled milk. You try and become better for it.”
New Orleans, like it has after every game, planned to take a hard look at everything this week, including the coaching staff.
Saints coach Sean Payton said repeatedly after Sunday’s loss, and on into Monday, that he planned to take a hard look at the coaching, in addition to mistakes made by the players.
“It is very easy to put tape on and say, ‘Well, he didn’t do this,’ ” Payton said. “We have to look at it, own it and say, ‘why has this happened repeatedly?’ In other words, your student gets a D on a test, and the teacher could say, ‘He just didn’t do his job.’ At some point, you say, ‘Did you do a good enough job teaching the subject matter?’ ”
New Orleans has to clean up plenty of areas that reared their ugly heads against Tennessee. A running game that ranks 25th in the NFL can improve, and the offensive line has to protect Brees better against teams that can rush the passer.
On defense, the Saints are ranked 31st in the league in both total defense and scoring, and New Orleans is allowing passers to produce an NFL-worst 112.0 passer rating.
And the Saints need to improve quickly.
With the open week coming up after Washington, a Saints team that is banged up, particularly at linebacker, has a chance to get healthy, and New Orleans is getting in its open week long after most teams have already gotten a chance to rest.
The Saints see an opportunity.
“We need to go on the road this week and play our best football, without a doubt, because we need this win, but it also gives us an opportunity to feel a little bit better going into the bye week, to get healthy and to really make that run,” Brees said. “We have to make sure that we are doing everything we can to get this win, and then get rested up and worry about the rest of the season.”