New Orleans Saints
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Payton on 7-2 Saints: Long road remans
The New Orleans Saints are 7-2 and tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for the longest win streak in the NFL at seven games.
Those victories have come by an average margin of 18.4 points for the first-place team in the NFC South.
So far this season, New Orleans has been one of the elite teams in the NFL, but one of its biggest challenges early in the second half of the season is to avoid losing focus as the praise can become a distraction. Head coach Sean Payton said it's something he addresses "every day."
"We talk about realities of today each week and the understanding of we're just past the midway point of the season and yet the experts will be talking playoffs, Super Bowl," Payton said Wednesday. "It's the craziest stuff ever and tune it out and laugh at it, understand what it is but there's so much more we have to do and accomplish and we just have to look at it like we have been with the win-the-day approach. Practice well, (concentrate on) preparation and get ready for this game. The other stuff can be toxic."
The Saints' next game comes against the Washington Redskins (4-5) on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Payton said he had on his desk a stack of requests for his time that "would choke you," many more than he is able to accommodate.
"(We are) just trying to make sure they understand, here's our weekly schedule and understand that this is the formula and be respectful and make ourselves available, but not at the expense of the process," Payton said.
The process has produced as balanced a team as there is in the NFL. New Orleans is second in total offense and tied for fifth in total defense. Each week its defense and run game are getting better.
"I don't think we've played our best football," quarterback Drew Brees said. "I know that the challenge is only becoming greater as we go along here. The ultimate goal of this season was not to be 7-2. The ultimate goal is to continue to put ourselves in position to win the division and go to the playoffs and see what happens. I think we're an ascending team. We're (getting) better every week. We've found a bunch of different ways to win and have a lot of guys playing well and (guys) gaining a lot of confidence along the way.
"I think the big message this week was nothing is guaranteed. You have to come out and earn it each week and it starts with your preparation. You are not going to make plays in the game that you do not make in practice. That's why our practices are fast, intense, (and have) a lot of energy. Guys are competing and we still feel like we have a lot to prove."
SERIES HISTORY: 26th regular-season meeting. Redskins lead series, 17-8, including a 47-14 victory in the last meeting in 2015 at FedExField. Washington has a 9-3 record in games played in New Orleans, including 7-1 in the Superdome most recently prevailing, 40-32 in 2012. New Orleans's last victory was a 33-30 overtime triumph in 2009 at FedEx Field. The Saints overcame three deficits to claim one of the signature regular-season victories of their Super Bowl season. They scored 10 points in the final half of the fourth quarter to force overtime as they improved their record to 12-0.