Photos from the New Orleans Saints at Houston Texans game on Sunday, November 29, 2015. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints photos)
Monday film day was no more forgiving than Sunday's game day for the New Orleans Saints (4-7), whose next task is to take on undefeated Carolina (11-0) on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
While the Saints showed improvement defensively in their 24-6 loss to the Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, the offense struggled for the second consecutive game and now has sputtered in the last 10 quarters.
Since New Orleans scored 21 points in the first half against Tennessee on Nov. 8, it has totaled 27 points in the last two-and-a-half games. The low tide was against Houston, which prevented the Saints from scoring a touchdown for the first time since Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees joined the franchise in 2006, and held the Saints to 268 yards and 3-for-12 on third-down attempts.
"These guys are pros and we really try to look closely at the technique, the specifics," Payton said. "We really try to look at the exactness of what we're trying to do.
"The preparation, the want-to, the desire – those guys have been outstanding. We've just got to be better at what we're doing and we've got to look closely at eliminating some of the mistakes if ones are being repeated, and evaluating those."
Right tackle Zach Strief said the simple solution is that players have to dig deeper than they already have in order to halt the team's second three-game losing streak this season.
"It starts with watching the tape and figuring out what went wrong and where the issues were, and it continues tomorrow with guys doing the right things," Strief said. "We said after the game, 'Whatever you've been doing is not enough.' We've got to find a way to do more. We've got to find a way to do more than we've been doing.
"Offensively, we haven't gotten into any kind of rhythm. We haven't been good on third down – we were leading the league in third-down conversion, and we haven't done that the last two (games). When we're not on the field and we're not putting drives together, it's going to feel very different than the three-game winning streak, when we were doing the opposite of that."
The Saints entered the game converting 47.2 percent of the time on third down. But reflection time on Houston ended Monday.
"On to the next one," cornerback Delvin Breaux said. "It was a tough loss, but we've got to focus on Carolina now and give them their first loss of the season.
"At the end of the day, it's all about the next game, win or lose. Because when we win, it wouldn't be this talk. You've just got to continue to keep moving on, continue to keep working hard at practice and doing your best on game day to get a win."
"We've got to get better this week," Strief said. "You've got to flush it the same way that you have a game when you have a bunch of yards and a bunch of points. You've got to flush it and move on."
Flushing perhaps will come easier given the fact that New Orleans will face an undefeated opponent, the last such team in the NFL this season.
"We've got (Carolina quarterback) Cam Newton coming in with an undefeated team and that's definitely something to be forewarned about," said defensive end Cam Jordan, who has a team-leading seven sacks. "But that said, it's a division rival, we know what they're coming in here to do and we've got to play our best game to have a chance to come out with the win."
Newton has accounted for 27 of Carolina's 32 offensive touchdowns – 20 passing and seven rushing.
"We've got to stay poised, we've got to stay composed," Breaux said. "We know they're 11-0, we know they're the hot team right now. We've got to stay ourselves mentally. We've got to stop their run game, that's what gets them going. Cam Newton is having an All-Pro season, and we've got to keep him contained."