Sand$: Locked
Saints reflect on their fall from grace
12/31/2007, 6:33 p.m. CST
By BRETT MARTEL
The Associated Press

MEATIRIE, La. (AP) — Sean Payton and Drew Brees rarely disagree.

But a day after New Orleans finished a disappointing season with a loss at Chicago, the Saints' coach and quarterback offered different impressions of what kind of team they had in 2007.

Payton borrowed a line from his mentor, Bill Parcells: "We are what our record says we are right now, and that's 7-9."

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Brees said he still believed the Saints were a playoff-caliber team that should have done better.

"I feel like our team was good enough to have gone to the playoffs," said Brees, who surpassed 4,000 yards passing for a second-straight season. "What went wrong? It seems like sometimes the ball didn't bounce our way. We lost a couple really close games we had no business losing."

After a splendid return to a storm-battered city that needed an emotional lift in 2006, the Saints entered this season brimming with optimism and labeled Super Bowl contenders.

They had gotten so close a season earlier, losing in the NFC championship game in Chicago. Nearly all of their starters were back, and the Saints thought they had strengthened their defense with the signing of free agent cornerback Jason David.

New Orleans yielded eight touchdown passes longer than 30 yards, the most memorable being Reggie Williams' 80-yarder, Andre Johnson's 73-yarder and Joey Galloway's 69-yarder. Those were just the big plays that ended in the end zone.

But the Saints' draft did not yield the same kind of early production as a season earlier, when several rookies became instant regulars. Receiver Robert Meachem, their first-round selection, never dressed for a single game.

The Saints lost their first four games of the season, a hole that proved too deep for a team that wasn't as fortunate with injuries as it had been a season ago

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