Saints' Victories Not Flukes
Oct. 22, 2002
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ With a 6-1 record the Saints are off to their best start since 1988. In many ways, however, they seem off to their best start ever.
Look at the teams they have beaten: Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington and San Francisco. Five went to the playoffs last year.
New Orleans has come from behind to win and taken the lead and won. In their latest victory, the Saints rallied and then held off the 49ers' high-powered offense in the closing minutes to take a 35-27 victory.
``New Orleans is a very advantageous team in a lot of ways, and that's how they've played all year long,'' San Francisco quarterback Jeff Garcia said. ``They made the plays, they forced the mistakes. We made the mistakes and they were able to capitalize on them.''
Beating the 49ers has been rare for the Saints. San Francisco has won 23 of their last 32 games in New Orleans, including six of their last eight. It's the 49ers' best road record against any opponent.
In the last game in New Orleans last season, the 49ers encountered little resistance from the Saints, rolling to a 38-0 victory behind Garcia, who matched a career high with four touchdown passes.
The loss capped a season-ending four-game losing streak for the Saints in which the Saints were outscored 122-52 and prompted 49ers receiver Terrell Owens to say the Saints played like a team that had its bags packed.
In the latest game New Orleans stayed close and won in the second half, scoring on all five possessions while holding San Francisco to 10 points.
``You have to play the Saints all four quarters now,'' Saints wide receiver Jerome Pathon said.
Except for five winning seasons under former coach Jim Mora _ marred by the Saints' failure to win any of their four playoff games _ 2000 is the only winning season in the team's 36-year history.
The 10-6 record in Jim Haslett's first year as head coach was capped by a playoff victory.
``We're better, we have better players than we did then,'' Haslett said. ``It's yet to be seen if we're a better team. I think that will play out at the end of the year.''
The Saints are scoring at a fast clip. New Orleans had 27 touchdowns through seven games and 221 points, an average of just more than 31 points a game.
``I think everything starts with the running game,'' Haslett said. ``We're never going to change that way because I think it opens up avenues in the play-action pass and the passing game. And really, the only game we didn't run the ball well enough was the Detroit game, the game we lost.''
Replacing Ricky Williams with Deuce McAllister has helped, Haslett said. So has the experience quarterback Aaron Brooks has gained in his second year as the starter. So has the house cleaning the Saints did and the additions they've made since.
The main thing, Haslett said, was for the players to stay focused. He doesn't want his team looking toward the playoffs or distracted by the increased attention.
``We just have to be smart,'' Haslett said. ``We know who we are and why we got here. We have to continue to work hard, prepare well and practice well and everything will be fine.''
Haslett's biggest worry now is the Atlanta Falcons, next week's opponent.
``I'm not worried about down the road,'' he said. ``Right now the worst we can be is 6-10. I think that's how you have to look at it.''