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John DeShazier: Saints have been honor students so far this season

Posted Oct 7, 2013

Players understanding that each game is different

They’ve bloodied the noses of opponents (Chicago), run circles around them (Arizona) and simultaneously done both (Miami).

They’ve been pushed to the limit (Tampa Bay), been pushed to the wall (Atlanta) and conversely pushed the enemy so hard that the foe’s momentum just about cracked the wall (Arizona).

They’ve allowed yards (Chicago) and been miserly (Tampa Bay), triumphed in pristine indoor conditions (Atlanta, Arizona and Miami) and overcome the weather outside (Tampa Bay and Chicago).

They’ve beat down the opposing quarterback (Miami, Atlanta) and seen theirs punished a little too much for their liking (Tampa Bay, Arizona). They’ve applied pressure via the blitz (Chicago) and stayed at home and blanketed receivers (Arizona).

And all the while, they’ve won. And that – winning – is what the New Orleans Saints (5-0) have done best this season.

Entering Sunday’s game against New England (4-1) in Gillette Stadium, New Orleans is one of three remaining undefeated NFL teams, the lone undefeated team in the NFC. And it’d be difficult to argue that Denver and Kansas City have been as versatile in victory.

“I thought (Sunday) was a good example of it,” Coach Sean Payton said Monday. “There were a handful of things, aside from just ball security, where we were going to have to play that game maybe a little differently than we’ve played some other games.

“It was the first team we’ve played, in a while this year, where we got a lot of spot-drop zone, which meant that we were going to have to be patient with the football. I thought we were. When we threw the ball underneath I thought the runners and receivers who caught it secured it, advanced it. So a simple check-down that you think you’re going to get four yards from, you got six yards.

“The one thing we’ve tried to preach all year is, each game … they’re not necessarily all played the same way. Understanding as a team what it takes to win that specific game is something that, if your team gets – and I think we’re beginning to – is an important trait.

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“That game was much different than other ones we’ve won earlier this year, and I think it’s just understanding and being able to play smart football.”

Definitely, the Saints have been honors students so far.

New Orleans has constructed wins by scoring 16 points (Tampa Bay) and 38 (Miami), and by allowing 247 yards (the Cardinals) and 434 (the Bears). They’ve done it with tight end Jimmy Graham catching multiple touchdowns (Arizona and Miami) and with running back Pierre Thomas doing so (Chicago).

They’ve done it when the opposing quarterback has finished with nine completions (Josh Freeman, when he was with Tampa Bay) and when he has had 25 (Atlanta’s Matt Ryan).

But, bottom line, they’ve done it.

“It hasn’t been perfect, but I think what we have done is found different ways to win each week,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “You could look at every one of our games. You can point to something different. You see constant improvement. That’s really what we’re looking for at this point.”

Suffice to say, New Orleans is seeing what it’s looking for.

It’s adapting to the week, the game, the quarter. And so far, there hasn’t yet been an adaptation the team hasn’t been able to make.

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