Jameis Winston

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston runs for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

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NEW ORLEANS - We don't know the answer to this question about the New Orleans Saints just yet.

Are they as good as they looked in Week 1 or are they as bad as they looked in Week 2?

The best guess here is they are somewhere in the middle, hedging much closer on the wide spectrum to the Week 1 version than the Week 2 version.

Time will tell.

But what we do know is the Saints have typically started slow out the gates, not having a 2-0 start to a season since 2013.

History tells us the Saints tend to fix problems and go on winning streaks after those so-so starts.

Let's rewind.

Last season, the Saints reeled off nine straight victories after starting the season 1-2.

The year before that, they won six straight, despite losing Drew Brees to a thumb injury in Week 2.

In 2018, the win streak climbed to 10 in a row after losing to Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers in the season opener.

In 2017, they won eight games in a row after losing their first two games.

So the signs are promising that the Saints will not only turn things around, but they could do so quickly.

To Sean Payton's credit, he refuses to put any asterisk beside Sunday's 26-7 clunker against the Panthers, despite missing eight assistant coaches and several starters on defense. None of that matters in the NFL and you have to play with the hand you're dealt.

The hand the Saints played with on Sunday just wasn't a good one.

Carolina, which will likely be 3-0 after they play the Houston Texans on Thursday night, had a lot to do with that.

Simply put, they were better than the Saints on Sunday, much like the Saints were better than the Green Bay Packers the week before.

Payton says the biggest issue against the Panthers was protection.

"Offensively, our communication and being able to handle some of the pressure looks we received from Carolina (wasn't good)," Payton said. "There were just a number of things that we need to clean up."

Payton emphasized that there were plenty of fingers to point at those communication breakdowns.

“It’s the group in its entirety," Payton said. "It’s our offensive line, our quarterback. It’s also us relative to a game plan of having good answers instead of some of the looks we received and quite honestly, once we struggled to handle a look or two, we got more of it. We need to have a better plan and that starts with me. We need to have a better plan to put our guys in a better position, but it’s not just one group.”

He also wasn't happy with the number of big plays the Panthers had in the game. Five different Panthers had at least one reception of 18 yards or more in the game. Christian McCaffrey also broke off a 16-yard run on a day he finished with 137 total yards.

"We didn’t tackle as well in space as we had the week before," Payton said.

We'll find out if the Saints have fixed things on Sunday when they travel to play the New England Patriots. There can be growing pains from games like Sunday, but that's only if you actually grow from them. Defensive tackle Malcolm Roach expects that to be the case.

"A lot of times people say just flush this game and go on to the next one," Roach said. "Nah, I feel like we need to grow from this game, study this film and realize what we are doing wrong.... Don't let one loss beat us twice."

While Week 1 and Week 2 left you wondering, Week 3 is sure to tell you so much more.

This article originally ran on ktbs.com.


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