New Orleans Saints players fully understand that much of what they had to say Sunday after a 36-20 loss to New England in the home opener at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and much of what they have had to say in the wake of an 0-2 start for the fourth consecutive season, are words that have been said in the recent past under a comparable scenario.
But to them, it doesn't make the words any less true.
As bleak as it has appeared to be for a team that has struggled out of the gate, they feel they're close to being what they hoped to be as they exited preseason.
For the offense, that means a more productive unit than the one that has averaged 19.5 points in the first two games, and has produced twice as many field goals (six) as touchdowns (three), that has gone an un-Saint-like, 3 of 8 in the red zone and 8 of 23 on third down conversions.
For the defense, it means being substantially better than a collection of players that have allowed 32.5 points and 512.5 yards per game, with opposing quarterbacks having completed 80 percent of their passes for six touchdowns, with no interceptions and an average of 11 yards per attempt.
"I think it's almost there," linebacker A.J. Klein said. "I think we're just a step behind right now. All the pieces are there, you pull up the tape, you see a lot of positive things. But right now we're just a split-second behind on making these big plays – especially up front, as far as pressure.
"We did a great job in preseason of putting pressure on the quarterbacks, and we're right there. If you go down and break the tape, our defensive line is right there. We just have to do better in the back end of covering and giving them a few extra seconds."
Klein said the way to help provide the extra seconds is through "film study, understanding the formations, route concepts that we're going to get and where we fit in that for the defensive backs and the linebackers. It goes back to communication and route recognition."
Cornerback P.J. Williams, who was credited with a game-high 10 tackles against the Patriots, said the concentration lapses have been most disturbing.
"I feel like we have a lot more expectations for our team, so that's the most difficult part," he said. "There are a lot of things that we can definitely fix. We've got to make sure we're locking in every single play. When we talk about all the success we had in preseason, but that was 20 to 30 plays (per game). It's a lot different than 50 to 70 plays. We've got make sure we're locking in every single play."
Failing to do so has led to explosive plays and quick-strike drives. And that affects the bottom line.
"Nobody cares about (playing good defense for) quarters and halves," safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "They only care about wins and losses in this league."