Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
METAIRIE, La. – Saints coach Sean Payton in the past has been known to turn to gimmicks to get his players’ attention, from planting china dolls in the lockers of those who are injured to impersonating a rival coach.
With Indianapolis on the horizon and a crushing defeat at Tampa Bay in the rearview mirror, he didn’t have to.
Not according to defensive end Will Smith.
“He said, ‘Hey, we’re always evaluating and we’re always trying to see what’s going on,’ ” Smith said Payton told the team during his Sunday morning town hall meeting. “For the most part, he said we haven’t played up to who we are.”
Nearly 12 hours after putting the final touches on the Saints most-complete game of the season, a historic 62-7 win over the Colts, Payton explained why he needed the players to look within despite starting the season off two games above .500 through six games.
“We’re sitting here at 4-2,” Payton said. “That’s pretty good news. Certainly we’d like to be better. But it’s like the parents with children who are capable of getting A’s and might be getting B’s or vice versa, getting B’s and getting C’s. As a parent, you’re always mindful of doing your best.
“The same thing exists for us as coaches and as teachers in making sure what we feel like our team is playing its best.”
Little changed for the Saints (5-2, 1-1 NFC South) during the week of practice leading up to Indy, save for Payton spending much of it in a golf cart with his leg propped up thanks to a surgically-repaired left leg.
But Payton’s belief that this team is every bit as talented, if not more so, than the 2009 Super Bowl champion team struck a chord with players.
Winning one game with a fourth-quarter comeback and losing two more when last-minute drives fell short in the waning minutes wasn’t going to cut it.
“He wasn’t lying,” Smith said. “You get caught up a lot of times with coaches trying to motivate you and it becomes unrealistic in a sense. But his (message) was really realistic. We hadn’t played up to our potential.”
Said Payton, “It was just observing. It was really trying to be brutally honest for all of us. It wasn’t such that we were trying to call people out. It was really, ‘this is where we’re at heading into the halfway pole here.’ ”
The Saints will get a chance to continue their roll this upcoming Sunday at St. Louis (0-6).
For Smith, while another 55-point win isn’t necessarily a must, following up by playing another complete game is.
“Those guys are hungry,” Smith said. “They want a win also. Who better to beat than the New Orleans Saints? We have to go in that game prepared, focused, with a lot of energy, ready to go play because we know if we don’t, any team can beat you in this league.”