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Saints know they better get heads into game to avoid 0-2 sta

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory...sfront/2093333 Saints know they better get heads into game to avoid 0-2 start By JOHN McCLAIN Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle NEW ORLEANS -- In this city of superstitions, where premonitions about the New Orleans Saints are as common as Hurricanes ...

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Old 09-11-2003, 08:48 AM   #1
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Saints know they better get heads into game to avoid 0-2 sta

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory...sfront/2093333


Saints know they better get heads into game to avoid 0-2 start
By JOHN McCLAIN
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
NEW ORLEANS -- In this city of superstitions, where premonitions about the New Orleans Saints are as common as Hurricanes and Mardi Gras beads, fans are desperate for a sign that this season is going to be different from the last two, in which the Saints plummeted from 7-5 to 7-9 in 2001 and from 9-4 to 9-7 in 2002.

The Saints losing their opener to Seattle could be bad news for the Texans, who visit the Superdome on Sunday. The last time the Saints lost their first game was in 2000 -- Jim Haslett's first season as coach -- and they recovered so well they finished 10-6 and posted the only playoff win in franchise history.

"Well, that would be a great way for the season to go, huh?" running back Deuce McAllister said Wednesday. "You always hear it's not how you start but how you finish. As a player, you have to realize that the season's a journey."

The Saints were the epitome of frustration the last two seasons when they blew playoff appearances by finishing with four- and three-game losing streaks.

Last season, New Orleans won its opener at Tampa Bay and started 5-1. The Saints were 6-2 at midseason. They swept the Buccaneers to join the 1995 Redskins as the only teams in history not to make the playoffs after sweeping the eventual Super Bowl champion.

"It was frustrating and disappointing, because we know we had the talent to compete with the teams that made the playoffs," said McAllister, who rushed for 99 yards and caught eight passes in the 27-10 setback to the Seahawks. "This is a thinking man's game, and you can't just go out and play. You can't just rely on your talent. You've got to think about what you're doing all the time."

Under Haslett, general manager Mickey Loomis and director of player personnel Rick Mueller, the Saints have rebuilt their roster. Only three players remain from previous regimes. Only one was drafted by the Saints in the 1990s.

Lack of talent hasn't been an issue.

Seldom have the Saints been beaten physically. Most of their problems are mental mistakes. They committed 11 penalties in the loss at Seattle, including eight before the ball was snapped.

"You have to want to be great," said tight end Ernie Conwell, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Rams and signed with the Saints during the offseason. "This game's about details. It requires concentration and discipline. Pre-snap penalties are foolish.

"We played well physically, but the mental part was disappointing. We definitely have to do more thinking."

If they don't, the Saints could start 0-2 for the first time since 1997. And a repeat performance isn't out of the question, because the Saints have been more successful on the road than at home since Haslett was hired in 2000. They are 10-14 at the Superdome and 16-9 on the road, counting the Seattle defeat.

"Until Sunday, we'd been able to handle crowd noise and adversity when we played on the road," Haslett said, rolling his eyes and looking upward as if seeking heavenly advice. "I understand there are going to be penalties that are judgment calls, but the kinds we made ... well, as coaches, we can't overreact to one game.

"But if it happens again ... "

Haslett didn't finish the sentence, but the look on his face said it all: If the Saints put on that kind of performance at home against the Texans, the head coach might blow a gasket. They can't afford to commit 11 penalties for 114 yards and cough up the ball four times.

"And we dropped six balls," said receiver Joe Horn, who had seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. "I don't care if you're the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If Tampa had that many penalties and turnovers (Monday night), Philadelphia would have beaten them. I don't care who you are or what kind of team you have, you're not going to win playing like that."

No NFL fans have suffered more frustration and disappointment than those who follow the Saints. And because of their history, the home crowd can turn on the Saints at the first sign of trouble.

"I don't know if we focus more on the road than we do at home or what," Horn said. "I wish I could explain it. Maybe we get too comfortable at home. But I tell you what: We better not get comfortable this week.

"Look what happened to Miami. That's the NFL, baby. Any given Sunday, you can get your butt beat."

Dating to last season, the Saints have lost four consecutive games. Going back to the start of last season, they have allowed at least 20 points in 16 of 17 games.

Now they are under pressure to win and even their record at home before playing at Tennessee. If the Saints are feeling any extra pressure, they won't admit it.

"I don't feel pressure," Horn said. "We don't feel pressure. Of course, we want to win, but the more pressure that's added, the more mistakes you make. And that's the last thing we can afford."


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