METAIRIE, La. -- Asked earlier this week how to juggle sense of urgency vs. panic, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said, "It's easy, because there is never panic. That doesn't exist."
Payton's theory will be put to the test if the Saints (1-3) don't beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) at home Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for noon CT in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
No, the Saints don't have to panic yet. They don't have to look far for examples of teams that have dug themselves out of similar holes. Payton reminded players this week that the Carolina Panthers were 1-3 last year before they wound up overtaking the 4-0 Saints for the NFC South title.
The Saints themselves were 0-4 in 2007 and 2012 before scratching their way back to 4-4 and 5-5 records those years.
But there is a desperate, glaring need to take advantage of favorable matchups like this one. The Saints have won 18 straight home games with Payton on the sideline (including the playoffs; not including his 2012 suspension).
Here's What 2 Watch 4:
Replacing Byrd: As if the Saints' defense didn't have enough problems, they suddenly have a new top priority -- replacing injured free safety Jairus Byrd. The first part is easy. Veteran backup Rafael Bush, who has played extensively over the past two years in nickel packages, will slide into a full-time starting role.
The bigger question mark will come in the Saints' nickel packages. Will they rely once again on struggling veteran cornerback Patrick Robinson, or go with undrafted rookie Brian Dixon? Either one is a dicey proposition, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Saints turn back to Robinson. They had enough faith in him to name him a starter out of training camp. And Payton made a point to keep encouraging him even when he was demoted earlier this year.
Elusive turnovers: With each passing week, the Saints' inability to force turnovers becomes more stunning. They've forced only one all season (the lowest number in the league), and just five over the past 15 games. And now they've lost their best turnover specialist, Byrd, to a season-ending knee injury.
But playing at home against Tampa Bay might be the perfect antidote. The Buccaneers are tied for the NFL lead with 10 giveaways this season. And though their young quarterback Mike Glennon has shown impressive poise, he's still a young quarterback playing in a tough environment.
The Saints' defense must improve their tackling and run defense to force Tampa Bay into some third-and-long situations. Then pass rushers Cameron Jordan, Junior Galette and Akiem Hicks must provide consistent pressure that has also been lacking, combining with the crowd noise to make Glennon uncomfortable. Easy, right?
Graham attack: The Buccaneers' defense is loaded with talent, but they haven't found a way to slow down tight ends yet -- which is a problem considering the Saints have the most dangerous one in the league in Jimmy Graham.
Last year, Graham caught a total of 15 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns in two games against Tampa Bay. Last week, the Bucs gave up 10 passes to Pittsburgh's Heath Miller.
The Saints will happily feed Graham if they find him open that often. Or they would be just as happy to see the Buccaneers sell out to stop Graham, leaving them vulnerable to the run game or receiver Brandin Cooks in open space or the deep throws that have so far eluded New Orleans' offense.