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New Orleans Saints aim to finish 2022 season on four-game winning streak

'That's what you do as a pro. You go out there and you compete to win the game'

Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints win against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17 of the 2022 NFL season.
Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints win against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17 of the 2022 NFL season.

Finish strong.

It's what the New Orleans Saints (7-9) have left to accomplish in Sunday's season finale against Carolina in the Caesars Superdome, the one remaining collective goal for a team that has been eliminated from playoff contention and isn't in position to play a spoilers' role against the Panthers.

New Orleans entered its bye week 4-9 after a gut-wrenching, 17-16 road loss to Tampa Bay. The reset button included going 4-0 over the remaining regular-season games, and the Saints have given themselves the opportunity to do so after victories over Atlanta (21-18), Cleveland (17-10) and Philadelphia (20-10), New Orleans' first three-game winning streak of the season.

"I think it's big for our team, I think it's important," Coach Dennis Allen said. "We said during the bye week that we didn't control our playoff fate. That didn't work out. But what we did control is how we finished out this season this season. We said that our goal was to go 4-0.

"We've accomplished three out of those four, we've got one more opportunity and so, that's what you do as a pro. You go out there and you compete to win the game, and that's fully what I anticipate and what I expect our team to do."

"At this point, being eliminated, it hurts and at the same time, we've got one game left," said defensive end Cameron Jordan, who's coming off a three-sack game and now is the franchise all-time leader with 115.5 sacks. Jordan was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week. "So you have to put that stamp of approval on this game. There is no fold over, there is no backing down from this. We've got to go out and take this win. Finish this strong and head into the offseason knowing that you can be better for the next year."

During its three-game winning streak, New Orleans has found the consistency – minimal penalties, low turnovers – that it sought for much of the season.

"I think it's just, we've been playing loose, that's been a big part of it," punter Blake Gillikin said. "I feel like we've always had the talent on this team to do great things in all three phases, and I think the last couple of weeks we've put together good football throughout the game, not just in a half. Complementary football as well.

"Defense is playing great, I think the offense is taking advantage of the defense playing well, and special teams-wise, I think we've kind of complemented those two phases as well. Just playing all-around good football, and that's what it comes down to. It's a hard league to win in. It's just tough to win every week."

The Saints have a chance to do so for the fourth consecutive week, and to fulfill the goal they set after the bye.

"It says a lot about our ability to keep fighting," said cornerback Paulson Adebo, who'll miss Sunday's game due to a hamstring injury. "Regardless of the outcome, kind of come in with the same mind-set. We're here to win, regardless of how it has been or what happened in the past few games leading up to this run that we're making. Kind of just keeping it in our mind that we're here to win and compete. Just kind of come in every day to work.

"Naturally, always, you hate to just miss something. But at the end of the day, it's all our own doing, so we understand there's things that we have to get better at to take us over the hump and take us from being a team that's kind of right there close to being a true contender."

Gillikin said the end of the '22 regular season could play a significant role in the '23 offseason.

"I think finishing the season strong could go a long way to a good feeling in the offseason, OTAs, training camp, stuff like that," Gillikin said. "Chemistry in the locker room, the feeling in the locker room, I think it's a big deal, regardless of the playoffs or not.

"I know we're officially eliminated, but I think guys are still playing really hard and you've seen that the last three weeks, and there's no quit in this team. That's kind of the identity of us, this organization."