METAIRIE, La. – The mood in the New Orleans Saints’ locker room following their season-opening loss to Washington was one of disbelief.
By the middle of the week, as the Redskins game began to get planted firmly in the rearview and the Saints looked head to Sunday’s game against NFC South rivals Carolina, the mood was determination.
But it most certainly wasn’t anger.
“No, no, no,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “… There’s those times where you want to get excited or you want to get mad or whatever but I really try to stay as even keel as possible. That’s something that I have to portray to the guys in the huddle. Certainly an air of confidence, borderline cockiness.
“But also a respect, respect for the opponent. Respect for the dangers, so to speak. And yet a confidence in our scheme and what we’re doing and feeling like we’ve got all the answers.”
While there might not be anger, there is definite focus. Both teams enter Sunday with 0-1 records and the percentages of getting into the postseason dwindle to the low percentages when you start 0-2.
It might not be must-win time, but it’s close to it. According to ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas and ESPN Stats & Information, teams that start off 0-2 make the playoffs just 12 percent of the time. Those that start 1-1, meanwhile, get into the postseason 41 percent of the time.
“The quicker you get your first win, the quicker you get a next one,” Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “I think 0-2 and 1-1 is a big difference as far as the confidence in your team and trying to get things going. Because once you get that first win, you kind of get your train rolling. But until you get that first win, you’re really stuck.”
Indeed, in the Saints’ history, they’ve started the season 0-2 18 times and finished no better than 8-8 (in 1990 and 1979). The last time they started the year without a win in the first two games was in 2007 and they finished 7-9.
On the other hand, they’ve started 1-1 19 times. In 10 of those seasons, they’ve finished .500 or better and four of their playoff berths came in these seasons, including 2011.
“We need to win this game,” Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said. “That’s how we see it and I’m sure that’s how they see it. It’s all about your division and winning your division. We need to go to Carolina ready to play because obviously they’re a great team with a great quarterback and great defense. We’re going to need to play our A game. We can’t do what we did last Sunday.”