Locker room photos from the New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. Photos by Michael. C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)
The right type of guy?
It's Tim Hightower, the twice-cut running back who was out of the NFL for three full seasons, but managed to step in and step up for the injured Mark Ingram to produce 85 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries against Tampa Bay, his first touchdown since the 2011 season.
It's Willie Snead, the long-shot receiver who was cut from the practice squads in Cleveland and Carolina, but caught on with the New Orleans Saints because he catches virtually every pass within range, who posted seven grabs for a game-high 122 yards against the Buccaneers.
It's Dannell Ellerbe, the linebacker who has missed more games (eight) than he has played (five) and yet, has made an impact when he has been available, including a team-high six tackles against Tampa Bay.
It's Marques Colston, the all-time leading receiver in franchise history, whose demeanor doesn't vary whether he has eight catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns or he doesn't have a catch or a target, who chipped in six catches for 36 yards against the Bucs and two short touchdown catches, his first two-touchdown game since Dec. 8, 2013.
It's Drew Brees, the record-setting quarterback whose two scores to Colston gave him 421 career touchdown passes – moving him into sole possession of fourth place on the all-time list – and to whom negativity is a foreign concept.
Why were the Saints (5-8) able to snap a four-game losing streak courtesy of a 24-17 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, one week after dropping a sapping, 41-38 decision to Carolina in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome?
Because New Orleans is convinced that it has the right type of guys in its locker room.
"Really, that's just what this team has been about all year," said Colston, who extended to 71 his franchise record for touchdowns scored. "We haven't gotten the bounces we'd like and some of the results we'd like, but it's a group that comes to work week in and week out and prepares to win a game."
The Carolina loss was the Saints' fourth this season of seven points or less, and the third that was decided in the final 90 seconds (both Carolina games) or overtime (Tennessee).
But regardless of result or streak – the Saints have had losing streaks of three and four games this season – the undercurrent has been that this team has the kind of players and character to bounce back, who would refuse to succumb to some failures, that would keep looking for ways to get better even when results weren't favorable.
So, among Saints players, there never was a doubt that they would show up against Tampa Bay and perform.
"I think it says a lot about our team," Brees said. "I've said it from the very beginning – I feel like we have the right type of guys. We've got great character. We've, unfortunately, had some things not go our way this year and we've made some mistakes along the way that prevented us from winning games that we felt like we should have had good opportunities in.
"You live and learn. Any time you have a young team, sometimes you have to go through those growing pains but guys have always come back to work with a lot of enthusiasm and great effort throughout the work week, in practice and preparation, and that really translated onto the field (Sunday). All the way around it was really a great team win."
The feeling that permeates the locker room was one of the reasons that Hightower personally wanted to greet and congratulate every teammate after the game.
"I just was so excited and so proud of this team," he said. "I've been on teams where you're at that (4-8) mark and it's easy for guys just to pack it in, it's easy for guys just to, 'Hey, my checks are still cashing, we've got three games left and I don't want to go into the offseason hurt.' It's easy for guys to pack it in.
"But we didn't. We didn't. Defensively, offensively, special teams, we didn't. Every single man came to work every single week, no matter who went down the next guy stepped up, we persevered and I felt that. My heart went out for every single one of these guys. I respect and love every single one of these guys in this locker room and I just wanted to make sure I let them know that, how appreciative I was of my teammates."
Teammates that – to a man – each Saint sees as the right type of teammate.