METAIRIE - The New Orleans Saints find themselves in the land of the sequel Sunday — Hollywoodland at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to be exact.
There have not been a plethora of quality sequels since Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather Part II" in 1974. "Caddyshack II" comes to mind as a hook and a slice in 1988, and "The Hangover Part II" in 2011 and "The Hangover Part III" in 2013 were bad as well.
The Saints will be hard pressed to equal their 34-31 overtime victory masterpiece over Washington after trailing 31-15 with less than three minutes to play in regulation in the Louisiana Superdome a week ago. But if some of it hangs over and they can just keep it in the fairway, they may be at least able to win at the box office, aka the NFC standings, even if not in as spectacular, cinematic fashion.
NFC South-leading New Orleans (8-2), winners of eight straight, plays the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams (7-3) at 3:25 p.m. central time Sunday on CBS.
The Saints flew in an airplane to Los Angeles, but they may have been able to fly on their own after the win last week, which was reminiscent of parts of that Hollywood South classic "Saints 2009 — The First Hangover," which detailed New Orleans Super Bowl XLIV championship.
"I would say, when you have wins like this, it's the No. 1 thing you'll miss when you finish playing or you finish coaching," said Saints coach Sean Payton, who led the team to a 13-0 start, a NFC South title at 13-3 and 16-3 final record with the Super Bowl title in the 2009 season.
"It's the excitement of getting one you think maybe you're not going to get," he said.
There were wins like that in 2009 — 46-34 at Miami after trailing 24-3 in the second quarter, 30-20 over Carolina after trailing 17-3 in the second quarter, 33-30 over Washington in overtime after trailing 30-20 with less than seven minutes to go in regulation, and 31-17 over Indianapolis in the Super Bowl after trailing 10-0 in the second quarter.
Those teams — like this one — also won with defense and with the running game, which were two things that four of the last five could not do as they finished 7-9.
"We'll see if this team has that type of DNA when you look at what they did and compare it," Payton said.
Quarterback Drew Brees, who is one of just three Saints remaining from that Super Bowl along with offensive tackle Zach Strief and punter Thomas Morstead, feels the Deoxyribonucleic Acid.
"We understand that each game at times is played a little bit differently depending on your opponent, depending on how they're defending you or what have you," Brees said.
"And when you do win in a lot of different ways, no matter what the scenario in a game, you feel like, 'Hey, we've been here before. We know how to win this game.' There's just a belief and a confidence."
The belief and confidence that comes with eight straight wins — something the Saints have not done since they won the last eight of the 2011 season for a 13-3 finish and the NFC South title. The Saints have not won the division since. The Saints have not gone for a ninth win since 2013 when they last reached the playoffs.
"What's impressed me the most," Brees said, "is this team's attention to detail and focus. that has continued to escalate each week. Other teams, it's human nature, they get complacent. This group realizes you can't just show up and win. We have that attitude, that hunger to still find our best game. That has been a unique factor about this team."
New Orleans blanked Washington, 18-0, over the final 5:58 and overtime to win last week. Brees was 11-of-11 for 164 yards and two touchdowns, and running back Mark Ingram gained 51 yards on two carries over that span, while the defense forced two punts after three-and-outs and collected two sacks and a turnover.
"When you're in the fourth quarter, and you're down by 15, and you still come out with the win, these are the games that are going to help define your upcoming year," said seventh-year defensive end Cameron Jordan.
"We've had a lot of blowouts this season (34-13 at Carolina, 20-0 over Miami in London, 52-38 over Detroit, 30-10 over Tampa Bay and 47-10 at Buffalo). This one is where the confidence clearly showed."
Los Angeles is confident, too, although it lost 24-7 last week at Minnesota, which beat the Saints 29-19 in the season opener. The Rams won four straight before that loss.
The statistical comparisons are close. Los Angeles is No. 4 in the NFL in total offense (375.4 yards a game) to the Saints' No. 1 (415.7). Los Angeles is No. 16 in total defense (335 yards allowed a game) to the Saints' No. 13 (326.7 a game).
Brees is No. 4 in the NFL in passing with 2,783 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions. Rams quarterback Jared Goff is No. 7 with 2,610 yards and 16 touchdowns with four interceptions. Ingram is fourth in the NFL in rushing with 806 yards a game. The Rams' Todd Gurley is right behind him with 791.
The Saints are down two starting cornerbacks as Marshon Lattimore (ankle) and Ken Crawley (abdomen) will not play along with starting right defense end Alex Okafor (knee). All three played in the classic victory a week ago. The Rams will be without top receiver Robert Woods.
"We've got to play our best game," Brees said.
"We're going into an environment where they're riding high," defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. "It's going to be a battle — two great teams."
Brees may not foresee a sequel as good as the original last week, but he did say he has noticed a rare desire to keep making good movies.
"What's impressed me the most this season is this team's attention to detail and focus that has continued to escalate each week," he said. "Other teams, it's human nature, they get complacent. This group realizes you can't just show up and win. We have that attitude, that hunger to still find our best game. That has been a unique factor about this team."
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