METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints seemed to have the proper mix of anger/frustration/confidence/realism/focus on Monday after a 38-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys that sent them reeling back to 1-3 on the season.
But they were the first to admit they won't really know if they're reacting the right way until they start to see real evidence on the football field -- beginning with Sunday's home date with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Here's what we can't do: We can't continue with the exact same preparation plan and expect different results, right?" Saints coach Sean Payton said. "And so you've gotta constantly look at tweaking the approach coming into the next week.
"Look, we'll find out a little bit about this team here. When you start the season 1-3 and you get punched like that, very quickly we'll find out a little bit about what we're made of."
"Every team is different," Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief said. "This team is different from last year, and that team was different than the year before. And this team has not figured out how to win yet."
I know a lot of Saints fans are eager to pinpoint some grand, big-picture theme that can explain this inexplicable start.
I've heard countless theories, from this team buying into its own preseason hype to tuning out Payton's message to having a "country club" training camp in West Virginia to just plain not wanting it as much as the Cowboys did on Sunday night.
And none of those theories can be dismissed outright since, as Payton suggested, everything should be on the table when looking for a solution. Payton said he'll look closely at all factors with the staff and veteran leaders on the team.
But when I asked leaders such as Payton, Strief, Junior Galette and Keenan Lewis on Monday if they see any such big-picture reasons that could point to their slide, they said they genuinely didn't think so.
"There's no lack of fire. We practice our ass off," Galette said. "I feel like we practice harder than any other team I've been here with in five years. We practice harder than any of those teams, and we have more talent than any of those teams as well.
"You have to be realistic and know that we're not as good as we thought we were. We have to get better and improve drastically. It's very humbling, but we still believe in our team, and we still believe the sky's the limit.
"We're in a rut right now. Coach always talks about the rut and the groove, and we're in a rut. We've got to get in that groove, and once we find it, we'll keep our foot on the gas."
Strief said he can't guarantee that nobody was reading news clippings -- but he knows from experience they don't mean a thing, whether you're predicted to be good or bad.
"And do I feel that the idea of going somewhere to save guys' legs for the season is causing us to lose games? No," Strief said of the training camp theory. "Having three turnovers is causing us to lose games. Getting behind 24-0 before halftime is having us lose games. Not finishing drives in the fourth quarter had us lose games."
Payton agreed that it's important for the Saints to take a hyper focus on what's preventing them from winning -- including the "laundry list" of on-field problems that were on display Sunday night.
"That's all of us looking at the tape closely and looking at the specifics in regards to assignment technique and then us as coaches looking at, 'Are we asking the players to do things we feel like they can do well?'" Payton said.
And Payton stressed the "sense of urgency" that's needed isn't just about showing up on game days, but showing up on the practice field and in the film room.
"This is a win business, so when you're not having success, that challenges everyone. That challenges the players, the coaches. You have to dig down deep. It's a gut check," Payton said. "And I'm certain we will."
Whether or not the Saints did lose their proper focus or motivation or any other intangible you want to consider early in the season, it's clear there's no excuse for those things to be lacking now.
"I'm definitely angry," Lewis said. "I didn't picture us being 1-3, the team battling even to get to .500. So it hurts. And I'm going to try and challenge my teammates and get it going.
"The first two losses, you lose by 2-3 points, you look back and say we could have done more. But a team comes in and puts up 38 points, dominating from start to finish. It's definitely head-scratching, and we gonna get it fixed.
"We can't be waiting around saying, 'It's still early.' We've gotta start kicking the door in."