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Barry Hirstius

WORST TO FIRST: Saints Back on Top in NFC South With Eyes on the Prize

During every new NFL season, the New Orleans Saints along with the rest of the League's 32 teams have a list of goals that they hope to achieve both as a team and an organization, by the end of the year. 

The basic standard of those goals usually include having a winning season, winning your division, winning your conference, and then hopefully — winning the Super Bowl.

The Saints have only reached that last and final goal just once in the team's 51-year history, and obviously they'd like to do it again one day soon.

Yesterday afternoon on a wet playing field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, New Orleans took one small step closer to that goal. 

After falling behind early due to some sloppy play and mental errors that saw them trailing a Packers team that was minus their franchise's #1 player, the Saints got their act together in the 2nd half; and ended up dominating Green Bay in the 2nd half like many people believed that they could coming into the contest.

Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

As a result: the Saints suddenly in 6 weeks time have gone from being 0-2 and the NFC South Division's worst team, to now leading the division with a (4-2) record; thanks to a 4-game winning streak that's possibly seen them play better than any other team in the entire League, at the moment.

But as 16th year veteran and the team's future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees told reporters after the game yesterday, the team is well aware that there are still much bigger fish to fry in the upcoming weeks and months that lie ahead.

"There will be bits of adversity, but keep your eye on the prize and focus on the process and know the good things will happen," Brees said. "Despite our 0-2 start, I think everybody believed it."

"We were a really good football team, just a few things here and there on both sides of the ball result in a big change and get us going in the right direction that we want to go. We stuck with that belief and here we are, the winners of four in a row, trying to make it five." 

The Saints however, aren't trying to get ahead of themselves; and keeping their "eyes on the prize" as Brees alluded to it, is their primary focus moving forward.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

"It's still early in the season. We're only six games in and we have 10 more, so we just need to not be complacent, not be satisfied where we are right now because there's still a lot of season to go", 3rd year defensive tackle Tyeler Davison told NOLA.com / The Times-Picayune beat writer Herbie Teope in front of his locker after the game.

Davison's assessment is correct, since the Saints will not get even the slightest moment to feel satisfied or to rest on the accomplishments of the past 4 weeks, despite a schedule that appears to be lightening up somewhat in the upcoming weeks.

Next up for New Orleans is a game this upcoming Sunday against the Chicago Bears at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Bears are only (3-4), but are coming off of a mild 17-3 upset over the previously NFC South Division-leading Carolina Panthers; whom they beat thanks to Chicago rookie safety Eddie Jackson — who became the first player in League history to score multiple 75-plus-yard defensive touchdowns in one single game.

Then after that the following week, the Saints will host the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Superdome; who despite their (2-4) record always give the Saints a tough time.

And those next two games at home against the Bears and the Bucs will precede the Saints' next road trip on November 12th; when they travel to up to Buffalo to face a hard-nosed (4-2) Bills team with the same record currently as the Saints have.

So if the Saints and their fans were expecting a Sunday picnic or a "cake walk" through the next few weeks' worth of games, they can forget about it.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

It's obvious that Saints head coach Sean Payton is well aware of that fact, and said as much to the assembled reporters at his post-game press conference.

"It's not time to come up with any summaries yet," Payton said. "We still have a lot of work ahead of us and very easily could've lost a game like this with some of the mistakes."

Despite Payton's stern warning, it's hard not to come away with an appreciation for the resiliency of this young Saints team after yesterday's come-from-behind victory.

I don't think that you would have seen such a "gut-check" reaction from the teams that we saw in 2014, 2015, and then again last season.

Those Saints teams all seemed to lack the passion or the will power, to overcome adversity as this year's team seems to have.

Call it growing pains and a sign of maturity if you'd like, but it just seems that this year's team appears to have that extra "something special".

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Or at least so far, anyway.

But as young teams often do: they can indeed lose focus and perspective, which is why it will be up to Payton and Brees to make sure that this group of players remain committed in the next 10 remaining games, to the task at hand.

"We can't pay attention to it," middle linebacker A.J. Klein said with emphasis to Teope and the other reporters gathered around his locker.

"It's still a long season and a lot can happen, a lot can change."

The rest of the team and the Saints fan-base, would be wise to heed Klein's words of wisdom,

Sure, being back on top of the NFC South Division — and especially after a 4-year absence — is all very nice.

But the Saints already know that they're going to have to keep their "eyes on the prize", if they hope to ultimately achieve that final goal that's still on their list..........

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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