METAIRIE, La. — A victory normally earns New Orleans Saints players a day off the day after the game.
Not this week.
Coach Sean Payton said there was really nothing normal about the Saints’ 52-38 victory against Detroit on Sunday, so no day off. Payton saw enough imperfections in the performance to bring the players in Monday and review how the Lions cut a 45-10 deficit in the third quarter to a 45-38 margin in the fourth.
“We have to understand the situation,” Payton said Monday. “When took our largest lead it was still early in the third quarter and there was a lot of football left.
“In the NFL, in order for a comeback from five touchdowns to happen, there are about eight things that have to happen and four or five of those things happened.”
New Orleans spent its team meeting Monday morning reviewing those things, including a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jamal Agnew in the third quarter. The Saints turned the ball over three times in the second half, and one of Drew Brees’ two interceptions was returned 2 yards by A’Shawn Robinson for a touchdown that pulled Detroit within seven points with nearly seven minutes remaining.
The Saints had five consecutive possessions that didn’t yield a first down while Detroit was making its comeback.
“We didn’t watch any good stuff,” linebacker Craig Robertson said. “We just watched what we need to fix.”
New Orleans’ third turnover was a fumble by Mark Ingram II, the only blemish on the Saints’ first 100-yard performance by a running back this season. The Saints hadn’t turned the ball over before Sunday.
“We had a chance to do something that no team in the history of the NFL has done and that is to not turn the ball over in the first five games of the season,” Payton said. “We didn’t do that.
New Orleans also was penalized 13 times for 118 yards.
“Certainly the penalties were problematic,” Payton said.
It’s always easier to have a critical eye on mistakes that need to be corrected when the feedback comes after a win.
“Everything is better after a win,” Robertson said. “Even when you’re sore, you’re not as sore after a win. That’s what a win will do to you.”
Despite the flaws in the performance, the Saints (3-2) are the only team in the NFL to win three consecutive games by at least two touchdowns this season. They’ll visit Green Bay on Sunday.
Against Detroit, the defense had five takeaways, three of which were touchdowns and a fourth that led to a touchdown, and sacked Matthew Stafford five times.
Despite the offense’s three turnovers against Detroit, New Orleans is still plus-6 in turnovers during its winning streak has allowed just two sacks while recording 13.
“It’s not just about getting ball carrier down or the quarterback down,” said linebacker Alex Okafor, who forced a Stafford fumble on a sack and Kenny Vaccaro recovered for a touchdown on the Lions’ first possession. “When we get to them we’re getting fumbles and turnovers and that’s been a big difference.”
After losing their first two games of the season by double figures, the Saints are in thick of the NFC South race.
“We’re definitely jelling and we’re definitely growing in the right direction,” Robertson said. “We’re understanding how much fun it is when you’re executing and just doing your job. That’s what it boils down to and that’s what guys are doing.”