The New Orleans Saints (3-2) will be looking to win their fourth straight game Sunday, against the Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.
They hadn't won three straight since Games 6-8 of the 2015 season, and haven't won four straight since opening the '13 season with five consecutive wins. So, for many of the young players on the roster, this is the longest run of success they've experienced in the NFL.
It's evidence that winning is difficult, and satisfying to know that the work is paying dividends.
Said quarterback Drew Brees: "I think for any team that's starting the year, especially the way that we started – we started 0-2, we lose at Minnesota, we lose at home against New England, those are two really good football teams that are playoff-caliber teams – I felt like there were just some little things that happened in those games that could've changed the complexion of those games.
"So we felt like we were much closer than maybe others gave us credit for, and yet, those were losses. You need some success to validate your process, to validate your preparation.
"We knew that there was going to be a defining period of time there – going on the road to Carolina, and then on to London, and then coming back home against Detroit, who we haven't played very well against, and now going on the road to Green Bay – this was a stretch here that could define us, in a way. I think we've certainly made the most of the last three weeks and we'd like to keep that momentum going this week."
THE LIGHTS ARE ON: The Saints have gotten significant contributions from their rookie class this year.
First-round picks Marshon Lattimore and Ryan Ramczyk have been first-day starters at cornerback and offensive tackle (Ramczyk has started at both tackle spots); second-round pick Marcus Williams also has been a first-day starter (four at safety and once at linebacker, though he was one of three safeties the Saints started in the game); the emergence of third-round pick Alvin Kamara at running back provided the production and comfort needed for the Saints to trade Adrian Peterson to Arizona; third-round pick Alex Anzalone started the first four games at linebacker before injuring his shoulder; and Trey Hendrickson, the third of New Orleans' three third-down picks, has shown the ability to be disruptive as a pass rusher on the defensive line.
"You need young guys to step up and make plays for you," Brees said. "For us, as a team, you know that each year you're going to have pieces of the puzzle that are still a bit undetermined and as the season goes along, you begin to see what you have.
"The light bulb comes on for guys at different times. Maybe it's just a moment that happens throughout the course of a game – it's like, all right, that was the defining moment for that player, where all of a sudden their confidence was built or you saw something that gave you an even better vision for what that player could be for you, whether it's offense or defense. I think we've had some guys on both sides of the ball that the light bulb's come on a little bit, the confidence level has raised and now here we are with the ability to do a little bit more."
GOLDEN VISIT: Several members of the U.S. women's national soccer team visited the Saints' practice facility Wednesday and watched practice. Team USA is in New Orleans for a friendly against South Korea in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Thursday night. The team is led by two-time gold medalist Carli Lloyd, who's working her way back into form after nursing a sprained ankle.
"Met Carli Lloyd for the first time, been a big fan of hers for a long time," Brees said. "Really, that whole U.S. women's soccer team, they've inspired a nation on many occasions with the way they play. You can feel the team comraderie; they're exciting to watch, they're fun to watch. And obviously (Lloyd's) been the team leader for a long time now.
"So we had a chance to chat after practice. It was great to meet her and kind of see the young crop of U.S. women's soccer players coming through. They're getting geared up for the Olympics and the World Cup in 2020, so we talked about that a little bit. It'd be great to see them make their way back and make a run at it."
With the team in town for their match on Thursday night, members of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team paid a visit to Saints practice on their off day.