"I don't think the message is necessarily, 'Don't overreact.' The message is, hey, you've got to swallow it. It doesn't go down easy, but it'll go down. And now, you've got to get back up and get ready for another tough challenge on the road."
Attribute those words to Saints Coach Sean Payton on Wednesday, after several days of having the season-opening, 37-34 overtime road loss to the Falcons in Atlanta hang in the air.
But know that it probably will be the last time this week that Payton and the Saints address that game, in which the defense surrendered the second-most yards (568) in franchise history and the offense, despite scoring touchdowns on drives of 80, 80, 80 and 71 yards, still felt it didn't do quite enough to post a victory.
"That's the NFL," outside linebacker Junior Galette said. "You just can't let it go into Week 2. We've got to get this first one, that's all that matters."
Getting the first one this weekend will require winning against the Browns (0-1) in Cleveland, the second consecutive home opener in which the Saints will participate. And unquestionably, Saints defensive players said that it will require a better defensive performance than what was rendered in a season opener which evolved into an who-has-the-football-last offensive bonanza.
photo gallery from the New Orleans Saints regular season opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, September 7, 2014. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints photos)
"It was a humbling experience," Galette said. "You've got to take it, put that in the pocket, and remember that feeling. Don't throw it away. Remember that, so you don't come out there and feel some sort of complacency.
"Just know that you've got to come out here and bust your chops, or you're going to get punched in the face."
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passed for a team-record 448 yards and three touchdowns, while completing 72 percent of his passes (31 for 43). He was sacked once.
But almost as much as wrestling Ryan to the turf, the Saints didn't satisfactorily take down his teammates after several receptions.
"First game is always tough," cornerback Keenan Lewis said. "It's live bullets, guys going 100 mph. Tackling is something we've got to emphasize. If you don't bring them down, they have another opportunity to make that big play.
"If you watched last week, some of the times we were in third-and-long (on defense) – especially me, I missed a big one. I just can't miss those types of plays if I'm trying to help my team win."
Lewis, in fact, went outside the team's indoor practice facility on Wednesday, after the work had been completed in there, and worked to improve his tackling skills.
"That's something I want to emphasize," he said. "In practice, sometimes you don't get enough of it (as a defensive back), especially when (runners) get stopped in the hole. Wrapping up is something I've been working on this week.
"That's something I used to do when I was in Pittsburgh, and I got away from it. But that's something I've got to get back to, just wrapping up. So I went out there today and worked on it."
The entire team placed an emphasis on tackling Wednesday, Payton said.
"We have individual periods, where it's strictly fundamentals," he said. "You're working location, landmarks, leverage, where you're fitting. The No. 1 thing is population to the ball. All of those things we work on. And we have to."
Effective tackling could lead to a more effective pass rush, because it could put the Saints in more favorable down-and-distance situations.
So, too, the Saints will have to be better than the 123 yards and 4.9-yard-per-carry average they allowed against the Falcons, Galette said.
"We've got to stop the run, first," he said. "If we don't stop the run, then they're in control the whole game.
"If we stop the run, then we're able to have a little more confidence in our passing downs and getting to use a lot of the plays that Rob calls out for us, and then we'll just have fun with it on third down. But we have to stop the run first. That's the main thing."