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Drew Brees: New season begins now

METAIRIE, La. -- Losing to the New York Jets last week certainly put a damper on the New Orleans Saints' impressive start to the season. It also made it harder for analysts -- and the Saints’ players themselves -- to have a good feel for where the team stands at the midway point of the season.

New Orleans is 6-2, leading the NFC South and currently penciled in as the No. 2 seed in the NFC. But players feel like they still haven’t reached their potential. And quarterback Drew Brees stressed Wednesday that the performance has to improve during the second half of the season -- especially with a difficult schedule ahead.

Here was Brees’ answer when asked for his midseason assessment of the Saints:

“Here is the tough part. If we were able to put together a drive and win that Jets game, we would be sitting here 7-1 and saying we feel pretty good, just got a come-from-behind victory and that kind of thing. Just one thing you don’t do and all of a sudden you are 6-2. So here we are coming off a tough loss and a game we felt like we should have won. We liked our plan going in (to the game). We feel like we matched up well. We just didn’t get the job done. That part is disappointing.

“And then you kind of look at the stretch ahead and it doesn’t get easier. It’s going to be extremely tough. It’s almost like a new season begins. We’ve learned a lot from the first eight games, both good and bad. We know the areas in which we need to improve. We are going to need to see those improvements if we are going to win these games, when you look at the stretch.

“And there’s no more important game than this one (Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys), because coming off a loss you want to get that bad taste out of your mouth, that rock out of your shoe, and you want to get back on the winning side of things.”