Postgame photos from the locker room after the Saints' 20-12 win over the Bears.
Five straight wins for the New Orleans Saints – the first five-game winning streak since the team won the first five games of the 2013 season – haven't meant five straight games of perfection.
That's a goal that still is being chased, for a team that won despite committing three turnovers and allowing two non-offensive touchdowns against Detroit, committed two turnovers against Green Bay, and coughed up another two turnovers Sunday against Chicago.
Add in some penalties and red-zone struggles (2 of 9 against the Bears), and there are gains to be made despite the fact that the Saints (5-2) have the second-longest current winning streak in the league and lead the NFC South Division.
"The key thing is understanding the true enemy or the true obstacles in front of you and how to overcome them, as opposed to paying attention to the things you can't control," Coach Sean Paytonsaid Monday morning in his teleconference with local media. "Our message with this team – it's young – (is that) there's a lot of things we're doing well and yet, there's a number of things that we're not doing as well. And I do believe when we play in a bigger game against a better team, those can catch up with you.
"So we're still chasing a perfect four quarters of football, as opposed to a good half at Carolina or a good half at Green Bay. We're still working hard on improving some of these things that we have to get cleaned up.
"Each week, they understand that and they understand the challenge ahead. It's a week-to-week sprint here. We really feel like we have to win this work week versus Tampa Bay, have the good Wednesday and Thursday, Friday practice sessions. That's part of it."
WORKING IN GRADUALLY:This is the week that cornerback Delvin Breauxis eligible to return to the active roster from the reserve/injured list. Breaux broke his fibula during training camp and had surgery to repair the injury.
Payton said that Breaux won't be rushed back into the rotation. The Saints' secondary has been playing at a peak level; nine interceptions (eight by members of the secondary) in seven games is as many as the Saints had in the entire season in 2016 and '15, and rookie Marshon Lattimorecontinues to earn high marks.
"I think like anything else – it's kind of happening with (receiver) Willie Snead – it's just getting the physical, the cardio, all the football-playing elements up to speed," Payton said of Breaux. "I don't think you just flip the switch and then, 'Bang.' I think the same thing is taking place right now with Willie. (Snead) got several snaps yesterday, not as many as probably we would have liked. And yet, he's someone that we're going to need down the stretch. I think that same process will take place with Delvin."
FIND A WAY:Something that has occurred for the Saints during their winning streak is that the team has exhibited the ability to find a way to win in different styles. If one unit has been rocky, others have covered and made up the stagger.
"It's been different (ways of winning) and that's been encouraging," Payton said. "Defensively, we came up with some key stops in some tough situations. Short-field turnover, short-field kick return (against Chicago on Sunday) – and they responded. That's been outstanding."