METAIRIE, LOUISIANA - Even as the New Orleans Saints enjoy their return to the top of the NFC South, coach Sean Payton wants his team to remember what it felt like to be 2-4.
“Having been where we’ve been and knowing how difficult that is, you refuse to go back,” Payton said Friday while discussing how he hoped the first half of the season had shaped his team. “Hopefully, you are becoming more resilient and a little bit tougher both mentally and physically.”
In a span of five days, the Saints have dramatically turned around a season that appeared to be running off of the rails after a fourth-quarter collapse in Detroit on Oct. 19.
Last Sunday night, the Saints routed a Green Bay squad that arrived in New Orleans on a four-game winning streak.
New Orleans then hit the road — where it had been 0-4 this season — and won convincingly in Carolina, 28-10, to take sole possession of first place as the Saints headed into a 10-day break between games.
Suddenly, New Orleans has the inside track to a division crown — if it can maintain its recent form through a tough second half of the schedule.
“Things have changed pretty fast,” said defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. “Sometimes when you (are) going through it, not fast enough, but when you come out of it on the other side you say to yourself, ‘Wow, we accomplished that in a few weeks’ time and now we’re in the position that we’re in.’ “