METAIRIE, La. –- The New Orleans Saints remain confident after their 0-2 start. But they aren’t ignoring the very real problems that need to be corrected.
Coach Sean Payton highlighted on Wednesday the Saints' last 15 games (including playoffs), in which they are 7-8 (and 2-8 on the road). And the biggest problem has been their inability to finish.
During that stretch, the Saints have surrendered late leads to the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers in 2012, as well as the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns in the first two weeks this year. They also had late rallies fall short last season at the New York Jets and at the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs.
“Sean put up a statistic today, going back to last year, we started 5-0. And looking at the rest of the games since then, we haven’t been finishing in the fourth quarter, whether it’s on offense or defense,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “He kind of came at us in the team meeting like, ‘Look at this guys, this is our last 15 games.’”
Payton also mentioned Wednesday that turnovers were a “major topic” in Wednesday’s morning meeting.
After making that a huge emphasis this offseason, the Saints’ defense has only forced one takeaway during the first two games, giving them a turnover ratio of minus-3 on the season.
The Saints have now forced only five turnovers over their past 13 games.
Although Payton preached that the Saints need to keep an even keel and not fall into the “crisis” that will be created from the outside, he also stressed that they can’t overlook the specific reasons for their losses.
“I think you have to pay attention. There’s a way we lost those two games,” Payton said. “It’s in the details and the preparation. It’s on us as coaches, everyone collectively, the players. I thought our practice [Wednesday] was outstanding.
“I think you can’t bury them under the rug and pretend it never happened. You have to look at it. I think we’re trying to make sure we uncover every stone and look closely at how we can find ways to make the corrections, and hopefully we can get that done this weekend.”
As Payton and players pointed out after last Sunday’s 26-24 loss to the Browns, the areas that most need to be corrected are “situational” errors -- like the missed assignments that plagued them on both sides of the ball late in the game and some costly penalties.
In some ways, the defensive performance was encouraging in Week 2 because the Saints’ defense proved they were able to clean up the issues that cost them in Week 1 (namely missed tackles and a few big plays over the top).
But as Vaccaro said, “That’s encouraging. But when you fix one problem, you can’t let other problems [replace them]. You can’t let communication become the next problem.”
“I don’t know, man, we’ve just gotta put a game together,” Vaccaro said – though when asked what his message would be to Saints fans, he said, “We’re working, and just ride with us.”
Quarterback Drew Brees was among several others who expressed that combination of frustration and confidence.
“For us right now, despite the fact that we have a lot of veteran guys, a lot of guys who have been here for a long time and won a lot of games, this is a new team. So it’s kind of reestablishing and recreating your identity and it’s like ‘Ok, who are we, who are we trying to be?’” Brees said. “We’re certainly a lot better than what we’ve shown. But you are what your record says you are. So we have to go out and get a win so we can start feeling better about ourselves so that we can start gaining some momentum.”