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 METAIRIE, La. (AP) -Drew Brees called last weekend one of the longest in recent memory.
It was bad enough losing to Indianapolis by 31 points on national television in the Sept. 6 season opener. Then players had Sunday off to watch the rest of the league play and dwell on what could have been.
``I've had some worse weekends, but this one took a while because we had so much time to prepare for (the Colts), as they did for us, and expectations were so high,'' Brees said after practice on Wednesday. ``We all walked away from that game just thinking to ourselves, 'What happened?' It just didn't seem like we showed up.
``We were so prepared. I feel like I was more prepared for that game than I ever have been for one in my life, and yet things just didn't go your way,'' Brees continued. ``I think you've just got to understand that at times that's going to happen, and it shows the strength and character of the team to see how we're going to respond.''
The Saints get their shot at redemption on Sunday at Tampa Bay, which also lost its opener.
The Saints weren't necessarily expected to beat Indianapolis on the road last week. The Colts are the defending Super Bowl champs, after all. But New Orleans, which led the NFL in offense last season, wasn't supposed to get thrashed 41-10, either.
Coach Sean Payton said the Saints' defense played well in the first half, which ended in a 10-10 tie, and only began to fade after being left on the field throughout the second half, when the Saints offense struggled to sustain drives and continually put Peyton Manning right back on the field.
If the Saints needed anything in their last game, it was ball control. But too many drives ended within a handful of plays. They ran the ball relatively few times, especially after falling behind. Deuce McAllister averaged a solid 3.8 yards per carry, but only had 10 carries. Reggie Bush ran only 12 times for 38 yards.
Last year, that pair routinely combined for more than 100 yards rushing per game, with Bush adding even more on short receptions coming out of the backfield.
Payton said he wanted to give more carries to McAllister, a battering runner who can wear defenders down, but that became more difficult in the second half as the Colts pulled away.
``The challenge always is, when all of a sudden those numbers of offensive snaps decrease and you don't have the efficiency you'd like on third down and you fall behind ... generally those numbers end up reflecting not enough carries,'' Payton said. ``Certainly, I'd like to be able to run the ball with Deuce and Reggie. Sometimes it becomes reflective of what took place during the game, so we'll study that and look to have more balance, definitely.''
Brees often refers to the Saints' attack as a ``rhythm offense.''
``We never, ever got in a rhythm that entire game,'' the quarterback said. ``That's not a great feeling. We always talk tempo. We talk establishing a presence from the get-go. And I walked out of that game just saying, 'We never got an opportunity to do that.'''
Rhythm, Brees said, is tough to achieve when offensive players are being called for penalties or missing key assignments.
``Mental errors, penalties, maybe a lack of sense of urgency,'' Brees said. ``I'd probably point to those.''
When the Saints are in rhythm, they can be dangerous, as they showed throughout last season and even at times during this past preseason, when Brees marched the Saints into scoring position in every drive he led during the last three preseason games in which he played.
And they eagerly await the chance to re-establish that kind of pace this Sunday.
``We're used to being that type of offense,'' Brees said. ``You don't lead the league in yards last year if you're not doing that, so I think we just need to get the swagger back, need to get the rhythm back.''
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