TAMPA, Fla. — At 2-4, you can say what you want about the New Orleans Saints.
You can say their defense isn’t very good because it has given up too many points and way too many yards, thereby earning its total yards ranking of No. 32 by a pretty wide margin.
You can say they can’t run the ball effectively, which is a fair assessment considering their average of 76.2 yards per game also ranks at the bottom of the 32-team league.
But one thing you can’t say is that you can definitely count them out when things aren’t going good.
You can’t do that as long as there is enough time on the clock and as long as Drew Brees is on the field.
It seems like all Brees needs is a stop or two here and there from his defense, which makes virtually no lead — even by double digits — safe.
Just ask the Tampa Bay Bucs, who on Sunday were feeling good about having a 14-0 lead after two possessions and a 21-7 advantage with more than 13 minutes remaining in the second quarter after three consecutive touchdown drives — at home.
What would have been a back-breaker for many teams was no big deal for Brees and the Saints.
At 14-0, the message from interim coach Aaron Kromer resonated with his team: Keep believing and keep climbing, their mantra since starting the season with four losses in a row.
“We kept climbing the mountain and beat San Diego,” Kromer said of their 31-24 victory over San Diego two weeks earlier.
In that one, the Saints trailed by 10 points early in the third quarter and looked dead in the water after the defense gave up an easy touchdown on the Chargers’ first series of the second half.
That’s when Brees rallied them with 17 unanswered points for a 31-24 victory.
“Now, we’re down 14 points, and we just keep climbing,” Kromer said after completing his six-game stint as interim coach. “That’s what we did. We stay confident.
“We know that we can win these games. And when a mishap happens, for whatever reason, we have to overcome it.”
With Brees, it’s easy to see why they never count themselves out even if there’s only the slightest chance of coming all the way back.
When the Bucs bolted to a 14-0 lead, with the first score coming after Brees was intercepted on their initial possession, he led his team to four straight touchdown drives covering 80, 80, 79 and 72 yards.
And for good measure, there was a 95-yard touchdown drive that turned out to be the eventual game-winner after the defense did its part with a sterling goal-line stand in stopping the Bucs four times after being backed up to their 1.
“What I like is that despite being all of a sudden down by 14 points and doing all the things we said we couldn’t do, we still remained calm and together,” Brees said.
And they were right where the Bucs could least afford to have them, it seems.