From barely recognizable to unmistakably identifiable, the New Orleans Saints washed away the uncharacteristic and returned to the familiar Sunday night.
The team that lost 34-7 in Seattle bore little resemblance to the one that now has won 10 games, and lost its other two games by a combined nine points to the Jets and New England. Thus, after that road loss on "Monday Night Football," New Orleans (10-3), which is 7-0 at home this season, was eager to re-establish its identity against Carolina, and did so in a 31-13 victory.
And it'll look to continue to play similar to that Sunday, when it travels to St. Louis to play the Rams (5-8).
"Any time you have a tough loss, the next game can't come quick enough," Coach Sean Payton said Monday. "You want to get back on track. I thought we did the things necessary to win. I thought it was a good team win."
For the Saints, it was among the more satisfying victories this season, coming on the heels of a week that appeared disjointed, beginning with the loss, extending through flight problems that forced the team to spend an extra night in Seattle, and including an extra day of rest for players (Wednesday) and a little more game preparation than normal in practice on Saturday.
Carolina was held to one touchdown, 239 yards and was 6 for 15 on third-down attempts, 2 for 9 after the first quarter. The Saints sacked Carolina quarterback Cam Newton five times. Seattle totaled 429 yards and scored three offensive touchdowns and Russell Wilson was sacked once.
Offensively, the Saints scored four touchdowns against a team that only had allowed 12 touchdowns in its first 12 games, and was holding opponents to about 13 points per game. And they had 373 yards less than a week after being limited to 188 in Seattle.
"It really felt good to have a great win against a division opponent like that, especially one that was as hot as they were," Saints safety Roman Harper said of the Panthers, who were on a franchise-record, eight-game winning streak.
"Defensively, (it felt good) to really play well up front and have some great coverage sacks. Great overall team win," he said.
"Offensively, for us to be able to put up as many points and the yards and be as successful as we were on third down (7 for 12 for New Orleans) against a great defense who's really been one of the top two or three all year – to have success against those guys is a nice step in the right direction where we want to go."
And where they want to go is onward, with execution comparable to Sunday. That's the level the Saints have been accustomed to this season, and want to remain accustomed to.
It's the look they expect.
"The Seattle game is in the past," center Brian de la Puente said. "We did not put good stuff on tape. We want to flush it, move on and I think we've done a good job of that. Seattle was Seattle, and we've moved on. We're looking to the future."