Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter


NEW ORLEANS ― Sunday was never about atonement for New Orleans.

It was never necessarily about getting revenge for losing three weeks ago to Tampa Bay.

And it was honestly never about even avenging the loss to St. Louis.

Sunday was about a first step.

You can only get two straight wins if you win the first one and now the Saints are on a one-game streak after beating Tampa Bay 27-16 at the Superdome.

You always knew the Saints would bounce back from the loss to the Rams.

That's what they do. It's their modus operandi.

They lost to Green Bay to open the season and came home to demolish Chicago.

They lost to the Buccaneers in Week 6 and came home to annihilate Indianapolis.

Now they lost to St. Louis and returned to New Orleans to pick up a gut-check win against a divisional rival.

The next step now is to string along wins, grabbing a much-needed road win in Atlanta next weekend.

They know this.

'We can't be an up-and-down team,' defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis said. 'We have to be able to string some wins together.'

It's about putting yourself in position to get out of round robin play and into sudden-death playoffs.

A season ago, Green Bay got to Week 9 at 6-3.

We know how that season ended with five straight wins, including a Super Bowl. The Packers haven't lost since.

Saints coach Sean Payton always harps on November and December football, describing it as the time of year when the good and great teams separate themselves from the pack.

That separation began Sunday for New Orleans, grabbing its first win of the season's second half on its first try.

Right now, the Saints are 2-3 on the road and have gone 2-2 over the past four games.

For the Saints to be who they thought they had a chance to be before the season, they'll need a win in Atlanta.

And before the season, they thought they had something special.

'We thought at the beginning of the season we had a lot of things in place to be a good football team,' Payton said. 'I don't want to say it's early, but there's a lot of good challenges ahead. And it starts with this next one, on the road in Atlanta.'

The focus now, despite the old cliche that they're taking it one day at a time, is on the future. Win now indeed, win against Atlanta and the postseason becomes all the more real.

'Our 100 percent focus is whatever it takes to win this game and be 7-3 going into the bye,' quarterback Drew Brees said. 'Get healthy during the break, recharge the batter and get ready to make a run at it.'

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