After all of those lopsided victories built on defense and a running game, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints pulled off the sort of by-the-skin-of-their-teeth comeback that has them thinking big things.
Rightly so.
The Saints are, after all, the first team in the Super Bowl era to go from 0-2 to 8-2. And that eighth consecutive triumph, 34-31 in overtime against the Washington Redskins on Sunday, made New Orleans the first team to win after trailing by at least 15 points with less than three minutes remaining in regulation since 2011.
''You're watching this thing come together before your eyes. And from where this started to where it is now, we've grown in leaps and bounds. And I think the sky's the limit for this group. We're playing with a ton of confidence. We feel like we've got a ton of momentum,'' said Brees, who was 11 for 11 for 164 yards and the pair of scoring passes down the stretch in the fourth quarter. ''You win games like this and you feel like, man, we can win anytime, anywhere, any way.''
Their seven previous victories came via an average of about 18+ points, with none decided by fewer than eight and only two decided by fewer than 14.
''We knew we were going to get tested at some point,'' linebacker Manti T'eo said. ''Today was that day. It can only get good from here.''
OK, well, slow down for a minute. There is a long way to go for the NFC South leaders.
The biggest problem for New Orleans moving forward is that it plays in what appears to be the deeper conference this season. Yes, the AFC has the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, both 8-2, but only three other teams are above .500.
Just look around at the competition New Orleans faces in the NFC.
For starters, the Philadelphia Eagles are a league-best 9-1 after embarrassing the Dallas Cowboys 37-9 on Sunday night. Then there's the Minnesota Vikings, who are 8-2 following an easier-than-expected 24-7 victory over the Los Angeles Rams - no pushovers themselves at 7-3. The Carolina Panthers (7-3; bye in Week 11) are only a game behind New Orleans in their division.
''We're talking about good horses that aren't even at the three-quarter pole yet,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said. ''Let's see how we continue to play. But obviously, I'm encouraged.''
In case you missed it, here are the other top topics after the NFL season's 11th Sunday:
YOU GET A PICK! AND YOU GET A PICK!
The worst coaching decision of the season might very well have been made by Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills, who essentially removed any chance his team might have of ending its 17-year playoff drought by inexplicably switching QBs and starting rookie Nate Peterman. How did Peterman fare? He barely completed more passes to his teammates (six) than to opponents (five) while playing only one half in Buffalo's 54-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Here's another way to look at it: Peterman's five interceptions in two quarters were more than the three picks Taylor has thrown all season. ''I'm not disappointed in my decision,'' McDermott said. ''I'm disappointed in the result.'' Not only should he be disappointed in his decision, he also should be disappointed in his defense, which has allowed more than 30 points three times in a row.
WRONG DIRECTION
Andy Reid's Kansas City Chiefs are falling apart, looking nothing like the club that walloped New England in Week 1 while opening the season 5-0. They've lost four of their past five games to drop to 6-4 after a 12-9 loss in OT to the downtrodden New York Giants. And the Denver Broncos' 3-1 start seems like the distant past, too: They have lost six straight games for the first time since 1990, falling 20-17 to the Cincinnati Bengals.
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