They insisted all offseason that they wouldn't let the Super Bowl hangover affect them. They would be different. Sure, the New Orleans Saints partied deep into March to celebrate their first Super Bowl victory, but Saints players and coaches continually maintained that it wasn't too much
They said all the book signings, all the parades and ring ceremonies and big-ticket dinners and late night show appearances wouldn't impact what they would do on the field in 2010.
The Saints simply don't look right. They hardly resemble the point-per-minute team we've come to expect under coach Sean Payton, and the defense isn't getting the turnovers it generated in 2009.
That adds up to a 3-2 record, but it hasn't even been that good. The Saints are struggling and they're in third place in the division with what now looks like a crucial division game this week at Tampa Bay against a Bucs team that matches up well with them.
"You know how this league is. It's week by week," Payton said Monday. "Do I think we can play better? Yes. That's the thing that's encouraging; that's the thing that gets you here and started on the next plan and that's the thing that keeps you driven and motivated. We don't have to identify it as anything other than a setback. Any time you lose a game, we feel like it's disappointing, but what's most important is what you do about it."
The Saints are 18th in scoring at 19.8 points per game. That is far off their league-leading 31.9 in 2009.
Drew Brees is still putting up big numbers, but he's also turning the ball over. Brees has five interceptions and his yards-per-attempt is down to 7.1 from 8.5 last season.
The reason could be a lack of a running game. The Saints are 31st in rushing. That puts even more pressure on Brees and the passing game. New Orleans was the only team in the league ranked in the top 10 in passing and rushing last season.
Now the Saints are one-dimensional. They miss Reggie Bush more than expected, and not just in the passing game where he excels.
The 2009 defense gave up a lot of yards, but made up for it with 39 takeaways, seven of which were returned for touchdowns. They insisted duplicating that number was possible. Gregg Williams, the team's defensive coordinator, preaches taking the ball away as the key to his defense.
"Numbers don't matter," he said.
They do when you are 22nd in run defense and the turnovers aren't coming. The Saints have eight takeaways in five games this season. That pace will give them 25, far short of the 2009 number.
The Saints have issues. They are fixable, but they better get it going this week.
The hangover seems to be killing them: