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John DeShazier: Saints players want to enter bye week on winning note

'Definitely makes the days off a lot easier'

There's no magic elixir to the New Orleans Saints' pre-bye week success.

In fact, Saints Coach Sean Payton said that more of a concern for his teams have been how they play after the bye week, an emphasis that has been born and nurtured courtesy of the Saints' 4-5, post-bye record since 2006.

But New Orleans (4-5) has been particularly successful in its pre-bye game since 2006, with a 7-2 record to its credit. Sunday's game against Washington (3-5) at FedExField will serve as the Saints' pre-bye game this season.

"We spent some time (Wednesday) talking about playing after the bye," Payton said. "We kind of laid out the schedule for the next week-and-a-half and when we kind of philosophically change what we do on the bye for the players. And in passing, we discussed a little bit of how we play leading up to the bye.

"I don't know, I wish there was something tangible that I could tell you that we do differently going in. I think by and large, we've been pretty good as a team and so, over the years, those good teams are playing better. But I think the attention probably is given more toward after the bye than the game before."

Players, though, definitely take note of wanting to enter the bye on a positive note. The preference of savoring a win for two weeks rather than having a loss linger for that long is an obvious one.

"Definitely makes the days off a lot easier," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "Nobody wants to go into the bye thinking about mistakes and the miscues you had from a loss. You can digest a win a lot faster than you can a loss, and plus Coach might give you more time off if you get a win. But it's key to go into the bye healthy, get a chance to rest and finish up down the stretch."

The Saints understand how prized the remaining games are. They're two games behind Atlanta for second place in the NFC South Division standings, within position for one of the two wild-card playoff berths in the NFC.

Getting a victory entering the break, obviously, will help.

 "I think every game is a critical juncture, honestly, from here on out, especially where we are this week, being that we have a bye next week," Drew Brees said. "We're banged up just like a lot of people are, but that bye week is an opportunity to really get healthy in a lot of areas.

"We need to go on the road this week and play our best football, without a doubt, because we need this win, but also I think it gives us an opportunity to feel a little bit better going into the bye week, to get healthy and then to be ready to really make that run. This bye is coming the last possible week that you can get a bye.

"This is a week where we've got to pull out all the stops, we've got to make sure that we're doing everything we can to get this win and then get rested up and worry about the rest of the season."

Because the rest of the season, Brees said, is a sprint after the break.

"There's always a mind-set after a bye – you're kind of breaking up the season, so to speak, first half-second half," he said. "You have six regular-season games left after this, and that's going to go by fast.

"Let's not kid ourselves, we're in a position where each one is so valuable. We're going to take them one at a time but we understand what we're fighting for here and each one is critical."

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