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New Orleans Saints seek to maintain control of division and destiny

What the New Orleans Saints didn't lose Sunday, was control.

The Saints (7-2) still can dictate their seed through their own actions after having their six-game winning streak snapped. Entering Sunday's game against Tampa Bay (3-6) in Raymond James Stadium, New Orleans leads the NFC South Division by two games over Carolina and is a game behind San Francisco for the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

The Saints play the 49ers in New Orleans on Dec. 8, and own the tiebreak over one of the other two two-loss teams, Seattle, courtesy of their 33-27 road victory in Week 3.

"Yes," Drew Brees said. "We control our destiny."

But Brees and the Saints obviously weren't pleased with how they handled that responsibility in their 26-9 loss to Atlanta.

"We were extremely disappointed in our performance," he said Wednesday. "I think we know we're a lot better than that and understand that, especially at this point in the season, this is a time when we really want to start separating ourselves from the pack in a positive way, continuing to position ourselves to achieve the goals that we have set for this team.

"We understand that every game, you've got to show up and you've got to play your best. What comes with that is great attention to detail, great execution, great focus and intensity. Unfortunately, our execution just was not up to standard, across the board. That needs to get cleaned up, it will get cleaned up and as a result, we'll be playing a lot better."

Perhaps especially now, with New Orleans preparing to play the second of a four-game stretch against division opponents.

"These are defining games, obviously, because not only do you put yourself in position to win one, but you put someone in your division in position to lose one," Brees said. "That's why we always say in a lot of cases, these are worth two (games). These are important games."

Too, he said, it's important to not allow the loss to multiply.

"You've got to have guys that take it upon themselves to understand that when you do have a bad day, you find a way to turn that into something positive, you find a way to create even more of a sense of urgency that allows you to come back and play much better the next time out," he said.

The offense will look to do so against a Tampa Bay defense that, numbers-wise, has struggled. The Buccaneers are last in scoring (31 points per game) and passing (298.9 yards) defense, and surrendered 31 points and 345 passing yards to the Saints on Oct. 6, in a seven-point Saints victory that featured Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. It was the third of five games that Brees missed after his thumb injury.

Also, Tampa Bay released starting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves this week.

But the other side of the coin is, the Bucs are first in the league in run defense, allowing just 77.8 yards per game.

"They're the No. 1 defense versus the run," Brees said. "Here's the thing: Something's got to give. You turn on a lot of this film and it's, man, they're stuffing the run, stuffing the run. So a team kind of feels like, well all we can do is pass against these guys because we're not going to be able to run the football.

"In general, I don't look at statistics and then judge a defense or anyone based just on the statistics. I'm going to turn on the tape, I'm going to trust what I see and then I'm going to go out and execute according to that."

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