NEW ORLEANS — A long night on the field in Seattle got even worse off of it, and now the Saints are operating on a compressed time-frame as they brace for surging Carolina with first place in the NFC South at stake.
Forced to stay overnight in Seattle because of a delay of their charter flight, the Saints didn’t get back to New Orleans until after 3 p.m. local time on Tuesday, nearly 12 hours after they had planned to return.
Players were sent home to get some rest and an afternoon of film study and conditioning at club headquarters was essentially wiped out.
Even before the flight delay, coach Sean Payton expressed concerned about not having his usual Monday-through-Saturday timeframe to prepare for the Panthers, who were able to start their preparations on Monday and will arrive in New Orleans riding an eight-game winning streak.
“One of the things that we discussed was just the quick turnaround,” Payton said after Monday night’s loss. “It’s a setback and now you’re on a short week, but we have to make the corrections. We can’t just say it didn’t happen. But that being said, we have to quickly get focused on Carolina. They’re playing as good football as anybody in the league right now.”
Team officials did not specify what caused the flight delay but confirmed the Saints did not take off until a little after noon EST.
The Saints will return to work Wednesday as they try to bounce back from a 34-7 drubbing that dropped them into a tie with Carolina atop the NFC South at 9-3 and set new marks for futility in the Payton era.
The seven points matched the fewest scored by the Saints since Payton became coach in 2006 and the 188 total yards were the fewest in his coaching tenure.
“We got our butts smacked around pretty good,” running back Mark Ingram said. “So we’ve got to swallow this and go back to the drawing board.”
The good news for the Saints is they’ll be playing at home this weekend, and in prime time, a combination in which they’ve been virtually unbeatable for several seasons. This season, the Saints are 6-0 at home, and their two night games have been blowout wins over Miami and Dallas.
But if the Saints want to go to the Super Bowl, they very well may have to go back to Seattle, which is two victories from securing home advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
The loss dropped the Saints to 3-3 outside the Superdome this season, but Drew Brees insists that playing on the road was not an overriding factor in Monday night’s result.
“The weather did not play a factor. The noise? It’s loud, yes, it’s tough to communicate … but I felt like we did a good job communicating,” Brees said. “We were prepared for that. We just got outplayed.
“We know they are a team that we are going to have to deal with in the future,” Brees continued. “We are going to have to find a way to play better against these guys when that time comes.”
But first come Carolina and quarterback Cam Newton, whose mobility is similar to that of Seattle’s Russell Wilson. New Orleans struggled to stop Wilson, who accounted for 310 yards passing and 47 rushing.
Defensive end Cameron Jordan said the Saints’ confidence was “not at all” affected by its poor performance.
“We’ve got a lot of talent,” Jordan said.
Added receiver Lance Moore, “There is still a ton of ball to play. We can’t worry about January right now. We have to worry about the Carolina Panthers, who are hot. We’ve got to do what it takes to bounce back on a short week.”