METAIRIE, La. -- The bye week has been pretty good for the New Orleans Saints historically. But they might appreciate it even more than usual this year.
Not only will the Saints (3-2) use this time to get healthier, just two weeks after they had six starters miss their Week 4 win at Detroit. But as I laid out earlier this week, they’re also badly in need of a reboot in all phases of the game.
So this will be even more of a “working vacation” than usual -- especially since players and coaches need to remain in town for daily COVID testing, except for special circumstances.
“Everyone’s in town. So we’ll take advantage of it,” Saints coach Sean Payton said Wednesday.
That doesn’t mean extra practice sessions (the Saints will hold a bonus practice next Monday, as they usually do). But Payton did suggest that the coaching staff might be putting in some extra hours.
“I said this to the coaches yesterday and again today: ‘We’ve gotta look closely at everything -- and the details,’” said Payton, who agreed with the notion that it will be a “back to basics” type of week. “You know, we’re 3-2, and yet we just have to improve situationally in a lot of areas. And the good news is we’ve got time to do it.
“But that’s gonna require the honest evaluation of, ‘Hey, are we doing things the right way? Are we calling it the right way? Are the right people on the field?’ We have to answer those questions.”
In the past, the Saints used to give their players and coaches and extended break during the bye week – something Payton picked up from colleague Andy Reid around the time of New Orleans’ 2009 Super Bowl season.
During Payton’s first three seasons as a head coach from 2006-08, the Saints went 0-3 after bye weeks. So he asked Reid for advice, since Reid’s teams had always been so good after bye weeks. And Reid suggested the extended time off.
The Saints then won five straight games following the bye week from 2009-13, including the year when Payton was suspended because of Bountygate in 2012.
The schedule wasn’t foolproof, however. The Saints are 8-3 following byes since 2009 -- including one of their worst performances in the Payton-Drew Brees era last year when they lost 26-9 at home to the 1-7 Atlanta Falcons.
At least that means the Saints don’t have to be superstitious about their schedule this time around.
Veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins also took an optimistic approach when he pointed out that the Saints are fortunate to be 3-2 during this rebooting period after they rallied back from deficits of 14-0 and 20-3 the past two weeks.
“I think we're a team that's faced a lot of adversity. But the one thing about this team is when we face adversity, we usually come out on top,” Rankins said. “So going into the bye week, you're happy with where you're at with 3-2. Knowing you haven't played your best football, knowing your best football's ahead of you, knowing you're not in the rhythm you want to be in -- in any phase of the game. We'll take 3-2 heading into the bye week, get healthy and then come back and get ready for this long chapter of football.
“But we can go into it knowing our best football's in front of us and can be excited about that.”