First-place Saints sitting pretty after surviving ugly start at Green Bay

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The beauty of the New Orleans Saints' fourth straight victory on Sunday was just how ugly things started out for them.

They did just about everything they could to sabotage their winning streak and sudden national love-fest. They were down 7-0 after the Green Bay Packers' opening drive and trailed 14-7 after Drew Brees threw two interceptions on a cold, rainy day in Lambeau Field.

But then the Saints wound up running away with a 26-17 victory that had them at least temporarily in sole possession of first place in the NFC South at 4-2 (the Atlanta Falcons were 3-2 heading into Sunday night’s game at New England).

The Saints have been far from perfect this year. But their resilience is unquestioned after they survived a hideous 0-2 start to rattle off their first four-game winning streak since 2013.

"It's not time to come up with any summaries yet," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "We still have a lot of work ahead of us and very easily could've lost a game like this with some of the mistakes. But there's a little bit of resiliency that I'm proud of -- especially in the second half of this game."

Defensive end Cameron Jordan said the Saints' confidence has been building during their win streak -- to the point where they genuinely believed their sideline rallying cries Sunday that they just needed to tighten up and turn things around.

"You can’t just say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna bounce back right now’ if you have no history to it," Jordan said. "But at the end of the day, we have confirmed validity at this point. And we know that we can. So this is something that we have to prove every time we take the field, but we can build from."

What I didn’t like: I’ll start with this, so we can go in chronological order. The Saints struggled in just about every area to start this game. They allowed a 46-yard touchdown run to rookie running back Aaron Jones on the opening drive. Brees’ first interception was ugly -- an underthrown ball in the end zone that looked like it was intended for cornerback Damarious Randall. And his second interception was also a poor decision. Plus, receiver Ted Ginn Jr. muffed two punt returns (luckily one was overturned by penalty and he recovered the other one).

Meanwhile, they let new Packers quarterback Brett Hundley get way too comfortable in his first career start in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers -- including a poor tackling effort by cornerback Ken Crawley on Hundley’s touchdown run.

However, the Saints weathered the storm and thundered back in every area in the second half.

What I liked: The resilience, first and foremost. But the Saints wound up having a ton of strong individual performances as well.

The dynamic running back duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara was the best thing the Saints had going from start to finish in this one (Ingram finished with 105 rushing yards, one touchdown and 5 receiving yards; Kamara had 57 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards). Receivers Ginn and Michael Thomas also played big roles.

Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore was arguably the defensive MVP with tight coverage throughout the day (and one near-interception). Safety Kenny Vaccaro added a late interception to clinch the win when they finally became too much for Hundley to handle.

"I wouldn’t call us a dominant team. But we’re striving to be that type of team," said Brees, who admitted his interceptions were just plain bad throws. "I think what I like is that we are encountering a lot of different situations and things in games and finding different ways to win and learning a lot about ourselves in the process, finding what our bread and butter is offensively and defensively, and just continuing to build confidence with these wins."

Fantasy fallout: Ginn had his biggest day yet with the Saints (on offense, anyway). The speedy 32-year-old had seven catches for 141 yards -- including a 47-yard catch-and-run up the middle and a 40-yard deep ball. Ginn has firmly established himself as New Orleans’ No. 2 receiver -- especially since Willie Snead has been a nonfactor so far this year. Snead was inactive Sunday after being limited in practice all week with a lingering hamstring injury and has missed a total of five games due to suspension and injury.

Another O-line injury: Saints guard Larry Warford left Sunday’s game early with an abdominal strain -- the latest in a rotating series of injuries for the depleted-but-resilient unit. Right tackle Zach Strief is already on injured reserve with a knee injury. Left tackle Terron Armstead just came back last week from summer shoulder surgery. And center Max Unger missed most of the offseason because of foot surgery. The severity and recovery time for Warford’s injury is unknown.

What’s next: The Saints will be favored at home in the Superdome against the Chicago Bears and rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky in Week 8. But that doesn’t seem to mean much in the NFL this year, and the Bears (3-4) are suddenly hot. Chicago has won two straight games -- including a 17-3 win at home against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.