Why Payton prefers 'one game at a time'

METAIRIE, La. -- NFL players and coaches constantly insist that they take one game at a time. That the most important game on the schedule is the next one.

But even though those are clichés, they generally mean them sincerely.

Literally speaking, there really is no other way to approach things -- especially in a league that is so rigidly based on weekly routines of game planning and preparation.

In fact, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton explained Thursday that the Saints used to take a slightly more long-term approach to the schedule. But quarterback Drew Brees suggested more of a hyper-focus on each week.

“We are halfway finished [with this season], and honestly the only way I know how, without going crazy, is to focus on this game,” Payton said. “I am bad about, you know, who we play three weeks or four weeks from now. We are by nature itinerary-driven. Certainly there is advanced work being done on the next opponent, but we really don’t look that far out as to who and where and any of those other things, and probably for a good reason. I know it is a little cliché, but it is for a reason. So then it is not really cliché.

“I can remember there was a theory where you divide the season into quarters. You looked at the first quarter and you pointed out the four opponents. And then the idea of that was you had to find a way to win three of these four. And then there was the next quarter, the next quarter, and if we can do that in each of the quarters then you end up with 12 wins. We ditched that in 2008 or 2009. Drew came up to me at one point and said, ‘Let’s not look at the season in quarters.’

“I’m kind of glad we didn’t because I think the 2009 season we didn’t break it down that way [and started 13-0 on the way to a Super Bowl win]. You just have to put all your effort and energy into the task at hand as opposed to looking down the assembly line.”

The topic came up Thursday because the Saints (6-2) are heading into a rigorous stretch of games (vs. Dallas, vs. San Francisco, at Atlanta on a Thursday night, at Seattle on a Monday night, vs. Carolina on a short week).

But as cornerback Jabari Greer said, luckily the Saints don’t have to play all those teams at once.