NEW ORLEANS — Sean Payton stood at the podium in an interview area just outside of the Saints’ locker room Sunday and grew seemingly more and more irritated.
Is the swagger back, he was asked nearly nine minutes in, the apex of his anger arc.
Not after what Payton saw on the field, steps from where he was speaking.
There are 18-point wins and then there was the Saints’ 35-17 triumph over Buffalo.
If it felt less like a triumph to you at home, rest assured that the feeling was mutual inside the Saints’ locker rom.
“We feel the same way,” Curtis Lofton said. “I feel like we didn’t play our best football and I think that’s some of the feeling that coach Payton is feeling. This time of year, coming off a bye, we expect to see a different product out there on the football field. Not getting penalties. Not making mistakes. Getting lined up and playing fast and physical.
“We did a lot of good things but there was a lot of bad stuff out there, too. If you keep letting that ride, when you come against one of these top opponents, those are going to be glaring moments.”
What exactly did they expect to see differently against Buffalo?
How about not committing eight penalties for 59 yards?
How about not using timeouts because there were too few men on the field?
How about not allowing four sacks for the third time this season?
Certainly there were positives – they did win and improve to 6-1 after all – but it’s the mistakes and the reoccurrence of them that is sticking in Payton’s craw.
“Those are things that certainly go against saying you have your swagger,” Payton said of the aforementioned issues. “Those are things that are troubling. … That keeps coming up and up and up and those are things that we’ve got to make corrections. We’ve got to get it squared away.”
Those things didn’t cost New Orleans on Sunday, but that doesn’t matter to Payton.
Part of the mood afterward can be reflected in Payton’s expectations for his team. They’re high – and they should be.
“If we want to be a great team, not just a good team, we’ve got to do those little things right,” Lofton said.
His message to the team in what felt like a longer-than-normal post-game locker room session was it was good enough to win Sunday but it won’t be good enough in the long haul.
“He was happy we got the win but our objective for the year is not to just win this game, it’s to prepare ourselves for the end result,” fullback Jed Collins said. “And today’s performance was simply just not clean, crisp enough.”
Yet, while that may be true, it’s entirely possible Payton arrived home and smiled.
Because he knows.
He knows that to get an 18-point win while playing some of the season’s more unremarkable football will not only give him plenty of teaching points, it means the team dodged a proverbial bullet.
This much I feel certain of – the Saints won’t have many more games like this.
Not with Payton in charge.