The New Orleans Saints are an NFL-best 7-2 after bye week since 2009, hoping to make it 8-2 on Sunday against Baltimore in M&T Bank Stadium. In Coach Sean Payton's first three seasons, the Saints were winless after the bye week. How did they manage the turnaround?
"I don't know that I can put a hand on it," Payton said Monday morning. "Each team is different. There is a give-and-take with what you're wanting to try to get done in advance, and then also getting guys away from the building to kind of recharge their battery, if you will.
"I want to say, probably after '07 or '08, I visited with (then-Eagles coach, and current Chiefs coach) Andy Reid a little bit. He's someone that I think a lot of and has had a lot of success in this league. His record after the bye was real strong and we chatted a little bit, and he just talked about what he did and so we kind of followed that a little bit. Players get away from here for a while and we'll get some extra work in on the opponent today. As coaches, we've been on the film."
This year, the Saints entered the bye on a four-game winning streak, having played their two most complete games of the season – a 33-18 road victory over the Giants, and a 43-19 home win over Washington. That would make it appear that, perhaps, the bye didn't come at an opportune time for New Orleans. But Payton said that's not an issue.
"It's kind of like, a 4 p.m. game, a 1 p.m. game or a 7:30 night game in the fact that you get so conditioned to not paying attention to the things you can't control," he said. "And then, it just is what it is. And so, sometimes, maybe you're healthier or not as healthy sometimes. Last year, of course, (the bye) came off of a trip over to London.
"It's not something you think a lot about other than what you're going to do during it, what corrections you want to make leading up into your next game and then getting an advance jump on the opponent. I don't know when's the perfect weekend for a bye. That would be a good question, a good one to look at relative to winning percentage. And usually, your better teams are going to play better after the bye."
RAVEN DOMINATION: In Baltimore's 21-0 victory over Tennessee on Sunday, the Ravens (4-2) submitted a defensive masterpiece: a franchise-record 11 sacks, nine punts by the Titans, 106 yards allowed, 1-for-10 third-down conversions allowed, 2.6 yards allowed per play and seven first downs surrendered.
The NFC South Division-leading Saints (4-1) saw it all as they enjoyed their bye week.
"Certainly, their pass rush (stood out)," Payton said. "But I think just as importantly, their efficiency on first and second down, and really putting Tennessee into the third-and-favorable down and distances that you want defensively.
"I thought, just watching the game, they were real efficient offensively. They were on schedule, they had balance (238 passing yards, 123 rushing), their third-down numbers (12 of 17) were fantastic. Overall, it was an impressive win for them."
LATTIMORE UPDATE: Payton said that cornerback Marshon Lattimore remains in concussion protocol, mainly due to the fact that the Saints haven't practiced yet. "But he's doing well."
MR. SMITH GOES OFF ON WASHINGTON: Rookie receiver Tre'Quan Smith took full advantage of his most extensive playing time against Washington, with three catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns – the most memorable being his 62-yard touchdown from Drew Brees in the second quarter, which lifted Brees over the NFL career passing yards mark. Prior to that game, Smith had one catch for 18 yards. "He did a good job, and he's been someone that we feel like is steadily improving," Payton said. "He blocks well. He made some significant plays that obviously were important plays for us to win the game."