METAIRIE, La. -- Heath Evans has but two questions for those possibly hinting that the Saints are suffering from a Super Bowl hangover or the Madden Curse.
“What’s a Super Bowl hangover? What’s a Madden Curse,” said Evans, a 10-year veteran of the NFL and firm non-believer in voodoo. “You can’t label these things because what are they?”
At 3-2, most Saints fans would have been ecstatic for this start pre-Super Bowl era. But coming off a season in which the offense put up near-NFL record numbers and the franchise won its first Lombardi Trophy ever, the expectations are greater than usual.
But the numbers in 2010 have given those who follow the team reason to be worried about a so-called hangover heading into Sunday’s noon NFC South matchup with Tampa Bay.
After leading the NFL in offense in three out of the past four seasons, the unit is 10th in 2010. Even more, the Saints are poor in the red zone, getting into the end zone 36.8 percent of the time, which is 23rd in the league.
The Saints wins have come against teams with a combined 1-13 record while the two losses are against teams who are a combined 7-3.
And yet, Evans’ experience tells him that comparing the 2010 start to the ’09 start is futile.
“As a player I almost get tired of hearing, well, last year was this,” Evans said. “Well, is it ’09? The Super Bowl hangover has nothing to do with it. It comes down to details of a game that’s very detail-oriented and two teams have been more detailed than us and beat us and that’s just the truth.”
There’s certainly some truth to that. The defense hasn’t lagged behind at all. In fact, the numbers for the defense are nearly the same this year through five games as they were a season ago.
Both seasons the Saints boasted the ninth-best total defense in the NFL, with this year’s unit allowing just five yards more per game than a year ago.
The big difference right now is the turnover differential. At this point in 2009, the Saints were plus-nine with 15 takeaways and just six giveaways. Now they have only eight takeaways to nine giveaways.
“It comes down to the little tiny things,” defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis said. “It’s hard playing the game of football. You can do so much of the larger things that everybody looks at and the little things will take you down. We just have to get back to doing the small things that got us as far as we got last year.”
Hangover, though? Not so much.
“People ask is there panic? No, there’s no panic,” Evans said. “We know what we want to do. Is there anger? Yeah. We’re angry that we’re not performing like we want to perform. Are we ticked that all our hard work has yet to come to fruition the way we want to? Yeah.”