Monday morning dawned cold, wet and windy.
A perfect mood-setter after the dismal performance of the Saints the day before. The kind of “Blue Monday” Fats Domino sang about.
Two weeks ago, the Saints were 4-4 and back in the Super Bowl conversion. Now they’re 4-6, and all anybody wants to talk about is the guy who snatched the football away from a visiting fan and then went into his Grumpy Old Who Dat routine.
Welcome to New Orleans. Just watch yourself when somebody’s throwing something to you.
And then it got worse.
Rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks, the team’s first-round draft choice, is out, maybe for the rest of the season, with a broken thumb.
Might as well pull the covers back over your head.
No doubt Sean Payton felt that way Monday, maybe more than anyone else. But Tom Benson didn’t make Payton the highest-paid coach in the NFL so he could stay at home when everything’s going wrong.
“Mondays are always challenging, and they’re certainly a lot easier when you’re coming off a win rather than coming off a loss,” Payton said after going over the film of Sunday’s 27-10 loss to Cincinnati. “There are roster decisions and other things that you have to do that might be different from your original plan.”
But you carry on.
“You can be frustrated, you can be disappointed and a lot of times you have to look closely in the mirror,” Payton continued. “As coaches, we talk all the time about how we’re responsible to get guys up to speed and get them ready to play their best game.
“So you cannot let yourself get depressed. That’s the toughness built up from playing and coaching in this sport.”
At least the Saints have an extra day to prepare for the Baltimore Ravens because it’s a “Monday Night Football” game.
But the Ravens, whose last visit to New Orleans led to them winning Super Bowl XLVII, will have the advantage of coming off their off week, just as will the Pittsburgh Steelers when the Saints visit the Steel City on Nov. 30.
That’s two rested, rugged AFC opponents, the kind the Saints are 0-2 against thus far.
Insert appropriate Roger Goodell conspiracy theory here.
So it doesn’t look good for the next two weeks.
The only saving grace, as we’ve heard and will continue to hear, is that the NFC South is the worst division since the long kind we had to master back before they had calculators and dinosaurs were roaming the earth.
Even some of the players seem resigned to the fact that the best possible scenario for the team is to win it with a break-even or losing record.
“We can get there at 7-9,” guard Jahri Evans said Monday. “And when you do get there, you can take care of business.
“Teams have done that before.”
Evans was obviously channeling memories of the Saints’ infamous 2011 playoff trip to Seattle.
Evans also was talking about how the team has not been able to pull out close victories this season, losing four times by a total of nine points.
But just before that, Payton had reminded the team that that doesn’t matter any more.
“We’re playing a six-game season now,” he said.
And while 7-9 winning the South is plausible (beat Carolina, Atlanta and Tampa Bay and you’re there, winning all of the tiebreakers), the way injuries are piling up, and just as importantly, the way the healthy players are performing, makes that far from a sure thing.
Payton, not often one to give credence to fan opinion, agreed that his team was not emotionally ready to play against the Bengals.
He didn’t blame the mental level of preparation and didn’t give any explanation, but he was clearly upset about it.
“When your team plays like that, you take it personally,” he said.
That’s why he praised rather than put down the remarks of second-year safety Kenny Vaccaro after Sunday’s game, adding plaudits for the way Vaccaro played even after the game had been decided because “It was important to him.”
Whether everyone else plays with that attitude starting Sunday remains to be seen.
Individuals and teams do manage to pull themselves together at this point of the season.
Chicago, losers of three straight, the last two by combined 106-37, “rallied around each other,” in the words of defensive end Jared Allen and beat Minnesota 21-13.
Tampa Bay, losers of five straight, had veteran quarterback Josh McCown so emotional he was crying after he led the Buccaneers to a 27-7 home-field humiliation of Washington.
That’s caring when there’s little else to play for.
And the Saints have road trips to play both of those teams remaining.
Still, despite being a four-point underdog Monday against the Ravens, ESPN is still giving the Saints an 83 percent chance of winning the division. But as tackle Zach Strief put so well last week, “We’re running out of mulligans.”
In a hurry.