GREEN BAY—A Saints team that spent big in free agency to make a run at another Super Bowl title while Drew Brees' window is still open, finds itself facing a desperate situation at midseason.
"Green Bay is one of the best teams in our league. A win against these guys would justify a lot of things for us. That would do a lot for our confidence. That would do a lot to help us turn our season around. That's what we're hoping happens," Brees told Packers media on Wednesday.
The Saints quarterback is in an unfamiliar place in the league passer rankings: at the middle of the pack. Why?
"Often, the quarterback position is a byproduct of a lot of things; how you're playing as a team. When you're behind, you become one-dimensional and it becomes tougher to play that position. He's the same player we've never taken for granted and grown accustomed to. It starts with the team. The way he played last week in Detroit – obviously he had the interception at the end – he was outstanding in that game," Saints Head Coach Sean Payton said of Brees.
At 2-4, however, the Saints' season could turn hopeless if the team doesn't begin winning. The Saints host the Packers on Sunday Night Football this week, travel to Carolina and then host the 49ers, Bengals and Ravens in a rugged stretch of schedule that'll likely determine whether or not the Saints will be playoff contenders heading into the final month of the season.
Must-win game against the Packers?
"There are no must-win games until they are must-win games. It's really important, but nobody needs that kind of pressure," Brees said.
"You start the season and you never go into it thinking you're going to be 2-4. Obviously, we've dug ourselves into a hole. We have three tough losses; we haven't been able to finish games. Last week was extremely disappointing, mostly how it finished," Payton said.
The Saints held a late lead and appeared headed for a win over the Lions that would even the Saints' record and position them for a run at the NFC South lead. Carolina, which was soundly beaten by the Packers last Sunday, holds a slim lead over the Saints in the South.
Brees threw an interception late in the game in Detroit and it allowed the Lions to rally for the win. A coach and quarterback who've been heroes in New Orleans since they resurrected the franchise and won a Super Bowl in the 2009 season, have critics this week.
"Last week was the first time I felt we played good team defense for 90 percent of the game," Payton said.
The missing 10 percent has been the problem for a Saints defense that is 21st overall and 28th against the pass. Offensively, the numbers are still impressive: No. 2 overall, No 2 in passing and 13th in rushing.
"We've had a couple of close games. We just haven't been able to finish. There are a couple of plays here and there that would've made the difference. I think we're only a play here and a play there from being 4-2 or 5-1. We have an opportunity to turn it around this weekend. You look at our division. Nobody has separated themselves. That gives you plenty of hope," Brees said.
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - OCT. 22