GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mark Ingram did his first Lambeau Leap. The New Orleans Saints' defensive players simulated a s'mores cookout on the field. And Sean Payton arranged free pedicures for everyone back at the team facility on Monday.
Not only have the 4-2 Saints won four straight games for the first time since 2013, but they're having a good time in the process.
"It is a lot of fun," second-year defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. "When you can go out there and consistently come up with stops when you need them and rattle off wins like this, it gives you a confidence unlike anything else.
"So we hope to keep this train rolling. Obviously, things to fix. But overall, if you fly around and play like we've been playing, it covers up a lot of mistakes."
The Saints' rejuvenated defense, in particular, has been having a blast for more than a month now. They have really been the driving force behind the team's overall turnaround after an ugly 0-2 start -- thanks to a 34-13 win at the Carolina Panthers in Week 3, a 20-0 shutout against the Miami Dolphins in London in Week 4, then a 52-38 win at home against the Detroit Lions in Week 6 that included three defensive touchdowns for the first time in franchise history.
Sunday's 26-17 victory at the Green Bay Packers started out much shakier (a 46-yard touchdown run by Packers rookie Aaron Jones on the opening drive, then a 14-yard touchdown scramble by quarterback Brett Hundley in his first career start in the second quarter). But Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan insisted that there was genuine confidence and optimism on the sideline after they fell behind 7-0 and 14-7 instead of any sort of "here we go again" mentality.
"It wasn't good enough [early on]. But we still can look over at each other and say, ‘Hey, this is where we need to tighten up, this is what's gonna happen, we're gonna rally from here,'" Jordan said. "With this confidence, it starts out in Carolina, when you win a game like that and you're relying on your defense to shut down how potent their offense can be. It just rolled into Miami, when you had a shutout game. They're confidence-builders.
"You can't just say, ‘Hey, we're gonna bounce back right now' if you have no history to it. But at the end of the day, we have confirmed validity at this point. And we know that we can."
For the second week in a row, several Saints defensive players got together for a group pose after a big play -- this time after safety Kenny Vaccaro's fourth-quarter interception that virtually sealed the victory.
The players pretended to be roasting marshmallows for s'mores by a campfire. And when Jordan saw that he was missing out on the fun, he sprinted over just in time.
— Kenny Dwayne Vaccaro (@KennyVaccaro4) October 23, 2017
"Man, they almost left me out the cookout -- you saw that?" Jordan said after the game. "They was out there making s'mores. I had to go run to get my [marshmallow] poker."
Jordan's close friend, Ingram, was having the same kind of fun that comes with breakout success on the other side of the ball.
Ingram now has his first two 100-yard rushing games and his first three touchdowns over the past two weeks. And after he scored on a 12-yard run in the second quarter, he did his own version of the "Lambeau Leap" into the stands that Packers players have made so popular over the years.
"I thought about the possibility [before], but I'm like, 'I don't see too much black and gold over there in that front row.' ... And I know if you jump up there in some Packers fans, you're gonna get ejected," Ingram said. "But luckily, it was just meant to be. There were two Saints fans sitting right there in the end zone, and I'm like ... 'Oh, this is the time.'"
Ingram and rookie running back Alvin Kamara have been the most consistent part of New Orleans' offense during the four-game win streak. Both backs went over 100 total yards from scrimmage on Sunday (110 for Ingram, 107 for Kamara).
And both were ready for the promised pedicures that Payton will bring to the facility on Monday as a reward for players having to wear the less comfortable, metal, screw-in cleats to avoid slipping on the grass at Lambeau Field.
But don't take all this fun as a sign the Saints aren't taking their rejuvenation seriously.
They're now alone in first place in the NFC South after the rest of the division lost on Sunday. And the reason they're having all this fun is because they feel like they're finally tapping into their potential.
"Man, just the attitude, the confidence we have in each other as a group," said Ingram, who called it "huge" to win the way the Saints did Sunday after such a lousy start. "That's what great teams do. ... That's what championship teams, winning teams are all about -- find a way to win when things aren't going your way."