Veteran cornerback Chris Carr lent some perspective on the Saints’ excruciating loss to New England as he left the locker room Monday and headed off for his team’s bye week.
When the Saints (5-1) return to practice next week, what happened in the final minute at Foxborough will be in the rear-view mirror.
“Nobody is going to be down off this loss,” he said. “We’ve been in much worse losses than this. I have lost like that twice in my career, and they were both in the playoffs, so it was 10 times worse than it was (Sunday).”
Actually, Carr’s teams have lost three times in the playoffs in games decided at the end. When he played for Tennessee in 2008, the Titans fell at home to Baltimore 13-10 on a field goal with 53 seconds left. He was with the Ravens two years later when Pittsburgh scored a touchdown with 1:33 left to win 31-24. The following year, his Ravens lost to the Patriots 23-20 in the AFC title game when Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.
An October defeat on a late Tom Brady touchdown pass pales in comparison.
“The name of the game is to get better and win games,” Carr said. “One good thing that can come out of a loss is you’re forced to look at your mistakes now. You are forced to really try to improve because you know that can cost you a game. Hopefully we take from that and we play better.”
Drew Brees lamented the Saints’ inability to pick up a first down on their final two series, but he loves their position after six games. They could be 4-2 just as easily as they could be 6-0, so he’ll take a tie for the best record in the NFC.
In Week 1, New Orleans stopped Atlanta on two potential game-winning passes from the 3-yard line in the final minute, preserving a 23-17 victory.
In Week 2, New Orleans forced Tampa Bay to settle for a 47-yard field goal when one more first down would have sealed a 14-13 victory for the Buccaneers. Rian Lindell missed the kick, and Brees led a quick drive for the winning field goal on the final play.
“Maybe we had no business winning that game,” Brees said. “Sometimes they go your way, and sometimes they don’t. You just hope you’re in a position where more of them go your way than not, because arguably half the games in this league are decided by the last possession and at times the last play.”
Saints coach Sean Payton treaded lightly, too.
By all accounts, he ripped the team more when it trailed 17-7 after an ugly first half than when it let a comeback win slip away.
“At times when you lose, especially a tough loss like that, you make more of an impact when you’re encouraging and very positive,” Brees said. “I’m sure he would have been more critical had we won that game, saying, ‘Hey, there’s a few things here that could have gotten us beat.’
“After a loss, human nature would tell you to get all riled up and mad and angry and yell. Cooler heads prevail, and Sean has a great feel for that, to say, ‘Man, you guys battled; you played your heart out. It didn’t go our way this time, but there’s going to be many more like this. Let’s be ready to win those.’ ”
The Saints have plenty of reasons to feel good about themselves. After Week 6, they ranked fifth in the NFL in offense, 12th in defense and tied for fourth with 20 sacks — 10 fewer than they had in all of 2012.
With a home game against Buffalo and a trip to the Jets next on the agenda, the schedule is favorable, too.
“We are a good team,” cornerback Keenan Lewis said. “We’ll bounce back from this. I just can’t wait to get back after the bye week and continue working.”
The Saints rejected the idea that losses fester without a quick turnaround. To them, the bye has come at the perfect time, allowing injured players like linebacker Jonathan Vilma, safety Roman Harper, tackle Zach Strief and receiver Lance Moore a chance to recover. Moore, who has missed three consecutive games with a hand injury, hopes to be back for the Buffalo game.
“I’ve been feeling better each and every day, and it’s just an injury that has to get better,” he said. “There’s not really a whole lot of treatment or rehab I can do that’s going to magically make me healed and ready to go. It just comes with time, and hopefully this week will be ample time.”
Moore admitted it was tough to sit out a loss when he felt he could have made the difference, but he expects the Saints to play even better when he returns.
“I would say we’re extremely fortunate to be 5-1 and sitting in a pretty position,” he said. “We haven’t even scratched the surface as to how good we can be.”