Bad play and bad luck are a difficult combination to overcome. And the Saints couldn't.

Last week's loss to Tampa Bay occured in a meaningless game. Whom the Saints lost, not whom they lost to, was extremely meaningful. While the Falcons set about dismantling the Panthers in the first half, the Saints were losing Chris Ivory, Malcolm Jenkins, and Jimmy Graham in the first half of their game against the Bucs.

Had the Saints and Bucs been a later game and the outcome of the Falcon game been determined, it's quite likely those players would have been used sparingly if at all and the Saints could have been spared their subsequent absence against the Seahawks.

Would that have mattered? We'll never know.

There were other 'absences' this past season that helped make the Saints the lone road team of the wild card round becoming spectators after its conclusion.

Last year the Saints had eight touchdowns on takeaways. This year two. Last year Darren Sharper had nine interceptions and three touchdown returns. This year: none and none.

Last year Will Smith had 13 sacks. This year he and fellow starting defensive end Alex Brown had just over half that total....combined.

In the entire 16 games of the regular season the Seahawks with the 31st ranked running attack in the NFL didn't have a single 100-yard day by a running back. Saturday Marshawn Lynch ran for 131.

In the 16-game regular season the Saints had surrendered a league-low 13 touchdown passes. Saturday against a quarterback who'd thrown only 12 of them all year the Saints surrendered four.

If the Saints had had the opportunity to play the Rams this past Saturday in their dome in St. Louis, things might have been different.

But they didn't and they weren't.

Now it's a matter of objectively identiftying needs and aggressively addressing them.

A year ago the Saints were on a once-in-a-lifetime journey. The problem with once-in-a-lifetime journeys is that by definition they ocur once-in-a-lifetime.

After revelling in one that was we now need to make sure that it wasn't.

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