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saintz08 11-26-2003 10:50 AM

Slim and None .......
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The New Orleans Saints may have a hard time finding motivation for their final five games.

After losing 33-20 to Philadelphia, New Orleans (5-6) has only the slimmest chance to make the playoffs.

Six teams will make the NFC playoffs and seven teams have better records than the Saints, who have never been above .500 this season and have not beaten a team with a winning record.

Philadelphia (8-3), Carolina (8-3) and Seattle (7-4) have all beaten New Orleans, giving them an advantage in a tiebreaker. The first criteria in NFL tiebreaker procedures is head-to-head competition. The second is a comparison of won-lost-tied percentages in conference play.

"I can't worry about things like if we are going to make the playoffs," coach Jim Haslett said. "We have to just worry about trying to win games. You don't like to lose. We just have to get back on board and try to beat the Redskins."

Mathematically, the Saints are still alive for the post season. With five games left, including three at home, they could still make the playoffs, but there is no room for error.

"Judging by last season, 9-7 just isn't good enough," said linebacker Derrick Rodgers. "You really need to have 10 wins to make the playoffs."

The Saints opened the season 1-4, but climbed back to .500 with a second victory over Atlanta two weeks ago. The Saints have the easiest part of their schedule ahead, beginning Sunday with the Redskins.

The Redskins (4-7), losers of six of their last seven, have allowed two long scoring drives in the fourth quarter of each of the last two games, including two touchdowns to blow a 13-point lead in Sunday night's 24-23 loss at Miami.

But New Orleans has struggled both in the victory over the Falcons and the loss to the Eagles. The Saints were penalized, made mistakes and mental errors and turned the ball over.

"I can't say that we are really focused," running back Deuce McAllister said. "I do not think that we are playing to our capabilities. We have to much talent not to go out and play to our capabilities."

It's also puzzling to Haslett, who believes that players should have no trouble with the fundamentals 11 games into the season, especially when they work on them constantly.

"We should never have a dropped ball," Haslett said. "You have to keep emphasizing it. We shouldn't turn the ball over. We shouldn't have a fumble right now. We lead the NFL in fumbles. That's what's killing us. We stress it. We work on the defense stripping the ball."

The Saints have no room for error in their last five games.

"We just have to keep our heads up," cornerback Ashley Ambrose said. "We have five weeks to go, so you never know what can happen. We just have to take it one game at a time. This loss really sets us back, but we just have to keep a positive attitude."

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