METAIRIE, La. ― If the points on the scoreboard isn't the obvious example that 2010 is different than 2009 for the Saints, then take a look at one other stat that you likely will read and re-read until it hits home.

In 2009, the Saints offense scored 22 touchdowns through the first five games. A year later, they have just 10.

Oh yes, there's definitely something askew on Airline Drive. What it is, though, is the question these days.

'I don't know,' left guard Carl Nicks said. 'I was kind of trying to think about that myself. ... Obviously, what we'd done last year is way different than what we've done this year so that's why I have a question and I'm sure the fans do, too.

'I really haven't been able to put my finger on it. I mean, we've got the same guys. We're nicked up in a couple spots but basically we're the same team so I really don't know.'

With the Saints (3-2) situated in third place in the NFC South heading into Sunday's divisional showdown with second-place Tampa Bay (3-1), there's hope inside the team's facility that

In Sunday's 30-20 loss to Arizona, the offense rang up 358 total yards. But that buries the true story, which is four turnovers leading to 21 points and a red zone efficiency of 25 percent.

For the season, the Saints have scored just seven touchdowns in 19 appearances inside the 20-yard line. And at 78.9 percent for scoring in the red zone, New Orleans is ranked 22nd in the NFL.

'The main thing is overall just more consistency,' Head Coach Sean Payton said. 'That's the one area that I think is evident. We'll put a quick drive together, move the ball with efficiency and the very next sequence we'll have a penalty or a minus play, a turnovers. You can't operate that way and expect to have good results.'

But it's not just in the red zone. After beginning the season turnover free, the Saints have given the ball away nine times in the past three games.

In fact, in the past three games, the Saints have lost the turnover battle. Not surprisingly, New Orleans is 1-2 in those games.

Nevertheless, the defense isn't blaming the offense for the Arizona loss. Instead, it's putting the weight on its shoulders.

'We only got one (turnover) and we had a chances to get a few others,' free safety Malcolm Jenkins said. 'We had a couple of fumbles on the ground and didn't get around the ball. We had some opportunities to get some interceptions that we didn't' come down with.'

Still, it comes down to the offense right now and its lack of production. Diagnosing the issue is one thing. Fixing it, well, that's another matter.

'I wish it was just one easy fix,' right tackle Jon Stinchcomb said. 'It's always about execution and the details of the game. It's frustrating for all of us at this point. We know what we're capable of and we haven't been able to put together the type of game we're accustomed to.'

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