The New Orleans Saints entered 2014 as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. They were going to roll through their early season schedule, probably be 5-0 heading into their Week 6 bye and cruise to an NFC South championship.
Instead, they lost their first two games by a combined five points to a pair of 4-12 bottom-feeders – the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns – losing both on last-second field goals.
“It was tough,” Saints running back Pierre Thomas said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It was real tough. You know you got a good team. I had seen the team develop during preseason and all through camp. I know we got a good team on our hands. Just to see us struggle in the beginning and have (so many) mistakes that we know we shouldn’t make at all, it really hurts. I could probably say it was a lack of focus. Now we’re starting to see guys focus in. A lot of guys started to focus in (on Sunday) and do their job. When we do that, everything goes smoothly. You (saw) what (happened) on our first drive against Minnesota.”
The Saints marched 80 yards in 11 plays to take an early 7-0 lead. They then marched 82 yards in seven plays to take a 13-0 lead (the PAT was blocked) after one quarter.
“We put together a good game plan,” said Thomas, who scored the Saints’ opening touchdown. “We pretty much stayed on script. We responded well and did a good job.”
Well, for the most part. The Saints were actually held scoreless in the second and third quarters before Drew Brees found Marques Colston for an 18-yard touchdown reception to create some separation in the fourth. New Orleans won, 20-9.
While no team wants to start 0-2, it was certainly a good wake-up call for the Saints.
“Definitely,” Thomas said. “You always think (you have a good team if you have a good record in the preseason). As soon as the regular season starts, it’s a reality check if you’re not on your p’s and q’s. If you’re not doing your job (and you get overconfident), you’re going to get slapped in the face. We got slapped in the face early. We (had) to get a wake-up call and that was our wake-up call to say, ‘Hey, this is not going to be easy. Even though we think we got a good team, we still got to put in a lot of work.’ We see that. We know that now.”
The Saints (1-2) face the Cowboys (2-1) in Dallas on Sunday in what could be a high-scoring affair. Offensively, New Orleans ranks fifth and sixth, respectively, in the NFL in passing and rushing, while its pass defense is an abysmal 29th.
Thomas, however, doesn’t feel the defense needs to improve; rather, he feels both units need to do a better job of playing complementary football.
“I don’t see it as the defense needs to pick up anything,” he said. “I think the defense is playing well. It’s just us as a unit, we have to just do our job (on) both sides of the ball. Offensively, we got to do the best job we can at staying on the field. We can’t have a quick three-and-out and put our defense (back on the field so quickly). We got to do a good job executing our plays and staying on the field as long as possible and giving the defense the rest that they need. If we’re not doing that, then we’re not helping out our defense. So it goes both ways.”