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John DeShazier: Coach Sean Payton focused on what Saints need to clean up

Payton: 'I don’t think anyone is paying attention to the horse at the quarter pole'

See your Saints celebrate in the locker room following the Week 7 win against the Packers.

After Sunday's 26-17 victory over Green Bay at Lambeau Field, the New Orleans Saints (4-2) were tied with Philadelphia for the longest current winning streak in the league, at four games (the Eagles play Washington on Monday night).

And, correspondingly, New Orleans also had risen to the top of the NFC South Division standings, a half-game ahead of Carolina (4-3; the Saints already have a road victory over the Panthers) and a game ahead of Atlanta (3-3) as they enter Sunday's game against Chicago in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

That's about as much back-slapping as is being allowed, if even that much is being tolerated.

"I don't think anyone is paying attention to the horse at the quarter pole," Coach Sean Payton said Monday afternoon in a teleconference with local media. "What we're paying attention to most is the things that we have to clean up.

"We've got to be able to block for the PAT (Wil Lutz's point-after attempt in the third quarter was blocked by the Packers on Sunday) or the field goal. We've got to be able to catch a punt (Ted Ginn Jr.  had difficulty cleanly fielding two punts, though the Saints retained possession both times, first by penalty and then because Ginn recovered his muff).

"We can't let a runner run right through the middle of our defense untouched for 70 yards (Green Bay's Aaron Jones sprinted 46 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, and Jones ran four times for 70 yards on the five-play, 75-yard drive).

"We've got to make sure we understand how we're blocking a certain play. We've got to understand coverages. We've got to understand the location of a football in certain looks. These are all things that even a week ago, in the Detroit win (52-38) in the second half, there were a number of things that championship teams are not doing. And we're working to get better in those areas."

Payton said it simply is too soon, and the landscape too shifty, for weekly prognoses.

"Just as three weeks ago or four weeks ago – I get a kick out of, 'Week 4, who's in the playoffs?' That stuff is, it's just white noise in the same way with where we're at right now.

"We haven't hit the halfway point of the season yet, and really the bulk of our divisional games. And, it is what it is. You're glad you're playing in a way where you win some games, and we've got another tough team that's coming in this week that's coming off of a couple wins. We're real early in the season still, relative to the amount of football we have left."

LEARNING CURVE: Payton said he is learning more and more about the Saints each week, and that there have been some encouraging characteristics.

"The games have been different and yet, I feel like in some of the games, the way we played in the second half, be it against Miami or (Sunday against Green Bay), it helped us secure a win," he said. "I think our numbers on third down were better (Sunday) – they were better for us in the second half defensively (Green Bay didn't convert on four third-down attempts after going 4 for 7 in the first half) and overall offensively (8 for 15, 53 percent; the Saints entered the game at 36.7 percent).

"We continue to stress the takeaway-giveaway; we were minus-1 yesterday and we won despite that. There are still a lot of things that we're working to improve on, that we have to improve on and yet, fortunately, we've been in a position to win games in making those corrections."

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