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John DeShazier: 2015 Saints are 'a different team than year ago'

Only similarity with 2014 team is record at this point of season

The parallel is so obvious that it can't be ignored.

The New Orleans Saints of 2014 lost three of their first four games, and then won three of four to reach .500. The Saints of 2015 exactly have done the same thing; they dropped three of their first four, and then reversed field to win three of four and even their record at 4-4.

There, though, the similarities end, according to the '15 Saints.

The team that will take the field Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, in search of its fourth straight victory and a 5-4 record with a win over the Tennessee Titans (1-6), is significantly different than the Saints who went on to lose five of their final eight games last year, all of the losses occurring at home.

"I think the resiliency all year with this team is a lot different than last year," safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "Guys are sticking together, there are no small groups, there's no panic. We know we can do it. We knew we could do it when we were 1-4, and we're just proving it now."

"This is a different team than a year ago," Payton said. "I think we've had good focus week to week, we'll get the corrections in.

"There have been years here – back in '07 we started 0-4 and then won four in a row and got back to this juncture. Each team is different. I think for us, the focus internally is on how we have to improve, what are the things that are showing up on film, like the penalties, for instance (12 committed in each of the last two games, against Indianapolis and the New York Giants). What are the other things that we've got to clean up in order to play the next game well."

Drew Brees – who is tied with receiver Marques Colston, guard Jahri Evans and right tackle Zach Strief for the title of longest-tenured Saint – agrees with Payton that this is a new team.

"This is definitely a different team," he said. "I think we've taken the approach that every week is just so important, and there's such a sense of urgency with us and there's really no margin for error. We have to come to work every day with the mind-set that we have to get better, we have to improve and we have to put our best performance together each and every week to win and also to get to where we want to go."

Part of that newness goes back to changing the culture of the locker room, and the latter is a major reason that the Saints believe they won't have a repeat finish despite the similarities in how they arrived at 4-4 this season, and last.

"We get in a close game now and we feel like, we're going to find a way to win, whether that's offense on the field or defense on the field, or special teams needing to make a play like they did last week, versus the beginning of the year where we came out on the losing end on a couple of those," Brees said. "Lately, it's been the other way around so that builds confidence. You feel like no matter what the scenario, we'll find a way.

"Everyone in our locker room is really playing for one another. So every time they step on the practice field to the game field, they feel like they've got something to prove to their teammate about themselves. When good things happen to guys on our team other guys are happy for them, instead of maybe envious, or what have you. When guys care about each other, when guys want the best for each other, that's when you know you've got something. That's what we have."

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