METAIRIE, La. — For the first time during the 2012 season, the New Orleans Saints finished a game on a roll and in position to keep momentum going.
Only, the NFL schedule-makers unknowingly threw a wrench into that idea, handing the Saints a bye following their Sunday night game against San Diego.
A week after that game, however, those inside the organization say the bye week placement was far from a bad thing.
“We control momentum,” interim head coach Aaron Kromer said. “We control momentum with the way we practice, the way we prepare and the way we play in the game. Like we had in the last game, there is ebb-and-flow during the games and during the season.
“We’ve continued to get better each week and that’s our goal, to keep climbing and keep getting better.”
The Saints (1-4) travel to Tampa Bay (2-3) for a critical noon NFC South matchup on Sunday and, if recent history is to be followed, they’ll be all right.
New Orleans is only 3-3 in the Sean Payton Era after a bye. But after the team made a change to give the players a full week off during the off time, the Saints have won three straight.
In those three wins, which all have come at home, the Saints have outscored opponents by an average of 43.6 to 23.
That’s in stark contrast to the games after bye weeks from 2006 to 2008. The Saints went 0-3 on the road, losing by an average of eight points while scoring just about 18 points per game.
Center Brian de la Puente attributes the success partly to the off-week schedule and believes that will help the Saints carry over the momentum from the 31-24 win over the Chargers.
“What’s special about the way we do things around here is getting a little more time off,” he said. “It really went quickly for me. I didn’t go anywhere. I stayed in town. So it really just felt like a long off day. I don’t think we lost momentum.”
And maybe bigger than the schedule, is that the Saints went into the bye week with a few key players banged up.
Receiver Lance Moore missed the San Diego game with a hamstring injury. Cornerback Jabari Greer, meanwhile, re-injured his groin and missed much of the game. And tight end Jimmy Graham was hobbled by a sprained ankle.