For Andy Dalton, the only thing that changes is the status, from "starting at quarterback in place of injured Jameis Winston, to "we're going to continue down that road with Andy at quarterback."
Otherwise, for the 12-year veteran who will start his fifth consecutive game for the New Orleans Saints (2-5) on Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders (2-4) in the Caesars Superdome, the status is quo.
"It doesn't change anything," Dalton said Thursday. "For me, your preparation and everything remains the same. I've been playing the last several weeks and get another opportunity to play again. So it's not like anything changes for me."
What New Orleans is hoping will change is the end result. The Saints are 1-3 in their last four games, though the offense appears to have found a better rhythm. New Orleans has totaled averages of 31 points and 417 yards per game in its last four, compared to 17 points and 373 yards in its first three. The Saints committed nine turnovers in the first three games, and committed seven in the next four.
"I think that when you look at it as a whole, we've moved the ball efficiently, we've gotten in and out of the huddle and operated well," offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said. "The biggest thing is, though, as a unit we have too many turnovers. It's something that we have to keep focusing on and we've got to get corrected.
"He's got a good grasp of what we're talking about play-wise, but he's also got input as well, as any of the quarterbacks do. And just kind of his thoughts and what he's comfortable with by the end of the week. So that by the time we get to game time, we feel comfortable with what we're doing."
Dalton, who has completed 83 of 131 passes for 946 yards and seven touchdowns, with four interceptions, said turnovers have overshadowed the positives. Two of his three interceptions happened in a 42-34 loss to Arizona last Thursday, with two interceptions returned for touchdowns and one in the end zone to end a scoring opportunity for New Orleans.
"It's hard to see all the things we've done well because haven't won," he said. "And then if you go back and kind of look at some of the things that we have been able to do, in the losses you try to fix your mistakes but also look at the things that you're doing well.
"I think we've been really balanced offensively, I think we've been able to run the ball well, we've been effective on third downs, we've been able to score some points. I think when you kind of look at the last couple of weeks, I think there's been some positives there that you can definitely take away. Now, the end result hasn't been what we wanted, to be 1-3 in the last four weeks. But we've got to find ways to turn the positives into wins."
Dalton said his relationship with Winston has been unaffected; he first entered the lineup while Winston battled back and ankle injuries. Winston has been on the injury report as a full practice participant the last two days.
"From the very beginning, nothing has changed there," he said. "I have really enjoyed getting to be around Jameis and to see how he works and the way he goes about each day and attacks each day. There are things that he does that I can look at and say, 'Wow.' It's so important to him, the time and effort that he's put into this game and everything that's involved with that. I'm real appreciative of Jameis and who he is as a teammate and who he has been as a friend as well."
But now, the opportunity is in Dalton's hands.
"When you're in this position, the biggest thing you can ask for is an opportunity," he said. "Fortunately, I have one here. I'm not focused on what this could mean and what could go on, that's all going to take care of itself whenever that time comes.
"I think one thing that I've learned – I'll lean on my faith in every aspect of my life – but one thing that I've learned is don't worry about the future right now. Just worry about where you're at. God's placed me here in New Orleans right now for this time, and I'm just trying to enjoy this moment and be present where I'm at. And so, I think that's the biggest takeaway I've had."