NEW ORLEANS -- Nice win. Much needed. Important for the team's collective psyche. Nothing more, nothing less.
Let's see if the 1-4 New Orleans Saints can win three straight after the bye -- at Tampa Bay, at Denver and Philadelphia at home -- and then see where they stand in the post-season hunt after eight games.
Right now, they are at the bottom of the NFC standings, looking up at the other 15 teams in the conference.
A quick synopsis as they head into the bye week. Five things need to happen for them to be taken seriously:
-- Quit giving lip service and pound the rock. At least try a little harder! Team currently ranks 28th in rushing offense, averaging 75.2 yards per game.
-- Keep #9 healthy. Every time quarterback Drew Brees drops back in the pocket, there is a high risk/reward proposition. Memo to O-linemen: Protect Brees at all cost and reap the rewards.
-- Stop the run. Team ranks last in rushing defense, yielding 172.8 yards per game. Team ranks last in total defense, yielding 456.0 yards per game.Team has allowed third most points in the league (154, tops in the NFC).
-- Put more consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Five sacks of immobile quarterback Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers in Sunday night's 31-24 victory is a start but none against Green Bay one week earlier is unacceptable, especially when Seattle got eight against the Packers and Indianapolis 5.
-- Make more game-changing plays, such as the defensive trifecta (sack, forced fumble and recovery) by Saints DE Martez Wilson to clinch the victory against the Chargers.
Accomplishing all five does not necessarily guarantee success, but if the Saints continue to struggle on defense under first-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, this season could end with double-digit losses.
From a coaching standpoint, Aaron Kromer concludes his interim assignment with Game 6 at Tampa Bay on Oct. 21, paving the way for the return of assistant coach Joe Vitt to resume his interim duties in Game 7 at Denver.
And while Vitt's return will be welcomed with open arms, it won't make up for Payton's season-long absence or serve as a quick-fix for a defense that probably needs a facelift during the offseason.
Though the Saints are what their record says they are, there is nothing permanent about a 1-4 start. That only speaks to the first five games. The next 11 chapters have yet to be written.
Keep in mind: Since 1990, only one team has started 0-4 and reached the postseason. The '92 Chargers created chicken salad from chicken manure, finishing 11-1 and winning the AFC West with an 11-5 record.
The Saints can still salvage this season but it will take no less than a 9-2 finish for them to be playing in January.
At 1-4, there is no margin for error. Each week must be treated like a playoff game, a one-and-done mentality beginning with Game 6 on the road against the desperate and always dangerous Buccaneers.
The motivation to win must come from within, not from external sources.
Payton won't be in a box suite again, smiling down on his team and providing telepathic inspiration from a distance as was the case Monday night inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Brees has passed Johnny Unitas in the record books and only three of the remaining 11 games will be played in primetime where the Saints seem to relish the spotlight.
So it's time for the 2012 Saints to man up, aim high and "Remember the Chargers.''
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