If you want a couple of jarringly contrasting images of where the Saints were, where they are now, and where they might be heading, contrast these:
In February there was head coach Sean Payton dripping from a Gatorade bath in Miami after winning the Super Bowl. On Sunday there was Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan dripping from a Gatorade bath of his own on the Superdome sideline, celebrating a win that made his team 2-5 on the season.
And to me that's the toughest thing about trying to repeat, to repeat the hunger that a team like the Browns has to reach a Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, as the Saints did while fighting the satiation of having been dere, done dat, as the Saints are.
As that master of fractured phraseology Les Miles might put it, how do you duplicate the want, having achieved what you wanted so badly?
Pro Bowl selections aren't always indicative of a player's true ability and are often the reward for a team's success. But last season the Saints sent a franchise-record seven players to the Pro Bowl: Brees, Evans, Sharper, Stinchcomb, Vilma, Goodwin and Harper.
How many players do you think the Saints would send if the balloting were today? I'm guessing maybe punter Thomas Morestead.
Both teams came into that game Sunday with four interceptions. Facing a rookie quarterback making only his second start and forced to throw just 16 times, the Saints left with four.
Facing the Super Bowl MVP quarterback who was forced to throw 56 times -- just four fewer than he has ever thrown in a game for the Saints -- the Browns left with eight. They got four, as many in one game as they had in the six previous.
Turnovers, they say, come in bunches, like bananas and relatives. Sunday that was cousin Eddie, Catherine, Rocky, Ruby Sue, and Snots on the Saints door-step for the holidays.
And it doesn't get much more depressing than that. It was a stunning reminder of the bad old days, long removed, quickly remembered, achingly recalled.
A two-touchdown underdog beating you, a former teammate having a career day against you, fans booing, departing early, the Superdome nearly vacant when the final gun sounds to end a 13 point loss that wasn't that close.
The better team didn't win. The hungrier team did. The Saints have been to the Super Bowl smorgasboard and are still satisfied while digesting the emotions we all gorged ourselves on.
The Browns, along with the Texans, Lions, and Jaguars, have been thrown the scraps that go to those who have never been there. The Super Bowl champions got chewed up pretty badly by a team that isn't even close to going for the first time.
And maybe because we're so full, that makes it even tougher to swallow.