METAIRIE, La. (AP) -Drew Brees is getting tired of explaining how the streaky Saints have gone from bad to good, and back to bad again, during a season that has fallen well below expectations.
``A lot of things have been said, but we need to start doing,'' Brees said Monday. ``There's probably been too much saying and not enough doing.''
Back when they were 0-4, the Saints (4-6) retained a seemingly delusional optimism about their ability to recover. They justified that stance, temporarily at least, by winning four straight to move back into contention in the NFC South.
Now they've regressed again, first losing to a St. Louis squad that was winless when it visited New Orleans, then falling to a mediocre Houston team whose patchwork secondary should have been no match for the Saints' explosive passing attack.
``We're beating ourselves in a lot of cases,'' said Brees, who threw for 292 yards against the Texans but struggled to get his team in the end zone. ``Obviously, you have to give (the other team) some credit. But when we just evaluate ourselves, we can truly look at the film and say. 'If we don't commit that penalty or if we don't turn the ball over here, we give ourselves a chance to win.'''
In their 23-10 loss to Houston on Sunday, New Orleans squandered two scoring chances with turnovers and another with a penalty.
In the first quarter, Reggie Bush fumbled at the Texans' 1-yard line on second down. In the second quarter, Houston intercepted Brees at its own 18 after the pass deflected off the hands of tight end Eric Johnson. Marcus Colston was called for pass interference in the third quarter after the Saints had advanced to the Texans' 28. That pushed the Saints out of field goal range, and the drive stalled on a failed fourth-and-10 try.
Early in the fourth quarter, when the Saints were still only down by one touchdown, Brees was intercepted a second time on a deflected pass, again involving the normally reliable Johnson. That turnover set up a Houston field goal that made it 20-10.
``There were a lot of opportunities that I felt were wasted,'' head coach Sean Payton said. ``I thought we had a handful of good opportunities yesterday and that's frustrating.''
Talk about wasted opportunities.
After their four-game winning streak, the Saints were in position two weeks ago to pull into a tie for first place in their division with a victory at home over struggling St. Louis. Instead, a loss put them a full game behind Tampa Bay, which was idle that week. The Buccaneers then beat Atlanta on Sunday to take a two-game division lead.
Now the Saints, who were considered Super Bowl contenders after advancing to the NFC championship game last season, are in grave danger of falling out of the playoff race altogether.
``We've been too inconsistent compared to a year ago, if you're trying to draw a comparison,'' Payton said. ``It's hard as a coach when you have an expectation level of one thing, because you've seen it, and then the following week you don't see that same level of production.''
The Saints also have had virtually no running game during their past two losses, gaining less than 50 yards on the ground in each game. Bush has only 51 rushing yards in his past two games combined.
Payton blamed himself for lack of patience in his play calling after the St. Louis game, but said he purposely went with a pass-heavy scheme against Houston.
``They were playing good run defense,'' Payton said. ``I felt the way the game was unfolding we'd have more success by throwing.''
The Saints have one game left against the Buccaneers in two weeks, the middle game of three straight against NFC South opponents, starting at Carolina this Sunday. That at least gives them a fighting chance to pull back within a game of the Bucs, or closer, heading into the final few weeks of the season.
``That's the only silver lining there is right now,'' linebacker Scott Fujita said. ``That's the only one I can find, and I've been searching for one.''
Payton said his team has all but used up whatever margin for error it had earlier this season.
``There's six games left and you're two games out,'' Payton said. ``I can't think of being in any more urgent a position. This is it.''

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