SEATTLE As Russell Wilson stuck the football in between Marshawn Lynch's arms Monday night, only to pull it out and dart unabated around right end early in the first quarter of New Orleans' 34-7 loss to Seattle, it was easy to let the imagination move ahead seven nights.
Because what Wilson did to New Orleans, what opened up the game in a completely different way, is precisely what the Saints will face Sunday night in style with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
And as big as Monday night's loss was, a defeat to the Panthers is a completely different animal, one that would change the entire dynamic of New Orleans' postseason dreams.
Not that anyone needs to tell the players who, more than the fans, have to find a way to forget Monday night.
To, as left tackle Zach Strief said several times in a quiet CenturyLink Field locker room, flush it.
New Orleans was so thoroughly embarrassed in a way we've seen only once since 2006 when the Sean Payton-Drew Brees marriage began that it's hard to know exactly how this team will react.
One thing is certain, however the confidence level didn't appear to have waned in the post-game locker room.
While the players were quiet and reflective and, yeah, a bit shocked, all remained resolute that whatever went wrong could and would be corrected in this short work week.
'Hell no,' Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. 'No, not us. We ain't built like that. We're not soft in our core. We'll take our whooping like men. And we'll go back to worktomorrow.'
Tomorrow, as of the time Jenkins was speaking, wouldn't come as soon as expected. Instead of returning to New Orleans near sunrise Tuesday morning, the Saints were forced to stay in Seattle a night extra after plane troubles kept the team grounded, much like the Seahawks.
But maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it's good for them to get used to the city and the climate where the NFC playoffs will likely ultimately go through.
'We know Seattle's a great team,' Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. 'And we know it's a team we've got to deal with in the future. And we've gotta find a way to play better against these guys when that time comes.'
The road back sort of begins against Carolina and it sort of begins with figuring out a way to stop the NFL's second-hottest team behind Seattle.
It truly starts, however, with moving on and remembering what the Saints have done right.
'I don't see how it motivates anybody to dwell on a game like this and again, you want to wipe this kind of memory out of your mind a little bit because you've got to realize, we're still a good football team,' Strief said. 'And we've got big games to play, games that we need to win to put us in a good situation later in the season.
'You've got to flush it and move on.'