After Further Review: Ugly December for Saints - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

After Further Review: Ugly December for Saints

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Charlotte, NC -- It seems like so long ago, but it was only December 2nd. That's when the Saints walked into CenturyLink Field in Seattle to play the Seahawks. The winner would be in the driver's seat for the NFC number one seed. The Saints were 9-2 then.

Four games later, they're 10-5. After beginning the month in a battle for NFC supremacy, they'll end it in a battle just to get into the NFC playoffs.

That's how quickly things can change in the NFL when a team losses three of four games in the final month of the season.

Their 17-13 loss in Carolina Sunday had to be their most devastating. In a game to claim the NFC South, the Saints gained more yards, converted more third downs and held on to the ball longer than the Panthers. But still couldn't avoid yet another road defeat.

The reality of their situation was evident in the locker room. They knew they let a golden opportunity slip away. But instead of gloom-and-doom, they focused on the things they did well.

"It was disappointing but not discouraging," said coach Payton afterward.

The positive outlook is understandable. Payton already had the closest thing he'll ever come to a post-game meltdown last week. This week the message was much more upbeat. He needs his team to feel like he still has the utmost confidence in him.

The good news is, the Saints have been here before. During their Super Bowl in 2009, the anxiety leading up to that postseason was nearly as great. That year they lost three straight after rattling off 13 consecutive wins to begin the season as they headed into their divisional round of the playoffs against Arizona. We all know what eventually happened next.

No, I'm not saying the Saints will now go on a run to the Super Bowl. But I am saying that this is a situation that's not completely foreign to them and they've overcome it in the past.

Plus, while a loss next week could put them in danger of missing the playoffs, a win and the Saints still have a chance to win the NFC South and claim the number two seed. They just need some help to get it. And in the irony of ironies, they'll need it from the Falcons.

None of those outside circumstances mean much to the Saints right now. Their focus is solely to win and get in.  And hopefully make their start to 2014 a bit better than their finish to 2013.

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