Second gallery of photos from the New Orleans Saints vs Carolina Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints photos)
As the first quarter of the New Orleans Saints' season draws to a close with a Sunday night game against Dallas in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, with New Orleans still searching for its first victory of the season, players and coaches Monday were as resolute as ever in the belief that continued hard work will help the Saints break through.
"Like I said (Sunday), there's no glass jaws in this locker room," said quarterback Luke McCown, who started in place of the injured Drew Brees and completed 31 of 38 passes for 310 yards, and an interception, in a 27-22 road loss to Carolina. Brees' status will be updated later this week.
"We're not going to go away easy," said McCown, who executed almost flawlessly in his first start since the 2011 season. "We're not going to flinch just because we're 0-3 now. You keep a stiff neck, you'll bow up, keep playing. Things are going to turn around for us.
"I think we're very close. Literally, two plays each of these last three games, and we're 3-0 and we have to know that. As a team we have to know that we're not that far away. If we start listening to the outside noise too much about how we're 0-3 and so far back in the division, then it'll pile on.
"But if we bow our chest up a little bit and go, 'You know what, we're not that far away. We need to make one or two plays in the last three games, and it's all different for us.' And I think we'll do that here."
New Orleans (0-3), in fact, perhaps was one play short of knocking Carolina (3-0) from among the ranks of the unbeaten.
It took a spectacular, leaping and twisting end zone interception by cornerback Josh Norman – snatching away what would have been a touchdown pass from McCown to Brandin Cooks with 69 seconds left – to preserve the Panthers' lead.
"I was encouraged by how they responded (Sunday)," Coach Sean Payton said Monday. "We played with good energy, good effort and yet, that doesn't always equate to a W. It gives you a chance. But I was encouraged by that."
But Monday, Payton and the Saints got back to work and didn't duck reality. The Saints remain winless entering their nationally-televised game.
"Disappointed, maybe, but Mondays when you don't play well or you lose are one of the challenges," Payton said. "You get thick skin and you get up and you start working on the opponent after you watch the tape, and you work on the things that you can control.
"It's important for the staff, for myself, all of us – you've got to get up, you've got to put your chin in the wind. The only way I know how to get that corrected is by working more efficiently, working harder and having a good week. There's no simple method for that. It requires some mental toughness."
That message is echoing through the locker room.
"Just keep fighting, keep working hard," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "We felt that we had a great game plan (Sunday) and think we executed it pretty well. We let some plays go where we made some mistakes, but we've got to clean up those mistakes and just keep working hard. I think a lot of what they got, we gave them. We've got to clean up the small details to our assignments and can't give up big plays and things like that.
"There are no moral victories in the game of football. You can play better, you can keep getting better every week but the end result is winning. We need a win. We don't have any (numbers) on the left and three on the right, so we need to start stacking the numbers up on the left side of the column and try to get this thing rolling.
"I think we're a pretty upbeat group right now. We know how close we are turning that corner and getting a win and starting this thing rolling."
Photos from the New Orleans Saints vs Carolina Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints photos)