Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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METAIRIE, La. ― The Saints have racked up four straight wins after dispatching with the Lions 31-17.

They've increased their lead in the NFC South to 21/2 games.

They're fighting tooth and nail to somehow capture the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.

And coach Sean Payton doesn't really care because, with a month left in the season, he sees some negatives and mistakes that could haunt the Saints in must-win games.

'I don't want to sound like a broken record, but we've gotten on a run here and won some football games,' Payton said, 'and yet, we've won despite not being consistent in some areas.'

Specifically, Payton isn't pleased with some passes that have been caught against the defense as well as the inability to close out games with the ball in hand.

He's also less than pleased with the lack of big returns in the punt game, especially with such an explosive player as Darren Sproles fielding punts.

Payton isn't alone in wondering why Sproles hasn't broken a punt return in months.

'When you have a guy like Darren Sproles, collectively, our group, well all expect to get big returns,' Saints special teams ace Korey Hall said. 'It's something that's frustrating when you go out there and you have expectations of how we do it and our culture.'

But it's the breakdowns on defense that seem to be the most frustrating.

The Lions passed for more than 400 yards Sunday night, a week after the Giants did the same.

'Definitely, especially as you get ready to go into the playoffs, those types of mistakes will hurt you,' safety Malcolm Jenkins said. 'It hasn't really killed us yet but we have to learn from those mistakes before they do bite us in the butt.'

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