Following an impressive campaign to start his head coaching career, the Saints have spent two seasons not living up to the standard set that year. That first year concluded with the Saints winning a playoff game for the first time and playing for the NFC championship. The Saints fans have dealt with high expectations. Twelve win regular seasons in 1987 and 1991 left the fans dreaming of that first Super Bowl visit.
Now, for the first time since 1991 and only the second time in team history, the Saints are 7-0. The Saints have never started a season with 8 consecutive wins and have only twice finished with 12 wins.
The defense is much improved thanks to the schemes of new defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, and the offense is even more impressive with the addition of a power running game that gives Drew Brees even more time to pick apart defenses. The Saints have appeared almost unstoppable. The team has won every way imaginable, whether dominating opponents for entire games, coming back from a 21 point deficit, or matching score for score in a good old-fashioned shoot-out.
The longest win streaks for the organization were in 1987 and 1991. The 1991 win streak stretched to 9 games, but included the last two games from the previous season. The only other time that the team won 9 consecutive games was in 1987. However, that streak ran through the months of November and December as the team rebounded from a slow start.
Payton became the Saints 14th head coach in January 2006, leading the Saints to a 10-6 regular season finish in his first year. However, the Saints struggled through Payton’s second season, which ended with a 7-9 record. Last year, the Saints finished with a 9-7 record. But, they were just a play here or a play there from being in playoff contention.
Sunday, they’ll face a divisional rival, the 3-4 Carolina Panthers. With the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL, the Saints are poised to continue the streak and win at least 13 games for the first time in the team’s history. The New England Patriots, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Atlanta Falcons are the only teams with winning records that the Saints will face this season.
But, Payton knows that there is still a lot of football left to play. So, Payton has to deflect attention away from what fans think is inevitable. This could be the year.