There won't be a need for the New Orleans Saints special team units to raise the level of their play with quarterback Drew Brees sidelined for an undetermined amount of time.
If that unit simply does what it routinely does, that'll suffice for the Saints (7-2), who have won six straight and lead the NFC South Division entering Sunday's game against Atlanta (3-6) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"I don't think you can prepare for losing a first-ballot Hall of Famer," kicker Wil Lutz said. "But I think last year, we went through this already, we know as a team that we're going to find ways to win.
"It just puts an emphasis on all phases coming together and I think last year, we showed that. It just shows that every phase has a role in winning these next few games, and that's what we're going to try to do."
Special teams did more than shoulder its share of the load last year, when New Orleans won all five games that Brees missed due to a torn ligament in his thumb.
Returner Deonte Harris returned a punt for a touchdown in a 33-27 victory over Seattle. Lutz provided all the points in a 12-10 victory over Dallas, and kicked two field goals in a 13-6 win against Jacksonville. And in a 36-25 victory over Chicago, J.T. Gray blocked a punt for a safety, Zach Line deflected a punt and Harris had a 67-yard punt return touchdown called back because of a penalty.
"We all want to be part of the win," Lutz said. "We preach on how important all three phases are, and special teams is just as important as offense and defense. We take a lot of pride in what we do in New Orleans, and we carry that to the game. All we can do is do our best to help the team win. That's what we're going to try to do."
That has carried over into this season for the Saints.
In the season opener, Margus Hunt blocked a field-goal attempt and Bennie Fowler recovered a fumbled kickoff in the 34-23 win over Tampa Bay. Lutz provided the game-winning points in overtime wins against the Chargers (30-27) and Bears (26-23). Harris' 75-yard kickoff return - longest of his NFL career – led to a field goal, and Marquez Callaway recovered two muffed punts, leading to two short touchdown drives, in a 27-13 win over San Francisco.
"We have a really talented unit," Lutz said. "We have some of the best gunners in the league. We have great core teams and I think that's showing right now."
The expectation is that it'll continue to show.
"Our special teams is huge for us, on a weekly basis," offensive tackle Terron Armstead said. "We count on those guys to put us in great position, to control the field position battle every week. We put that challenge on those guys and time after time they always answer the bell. The same thing will be for this week and every week going forward."