With a winning attitude, New Orleans isn't the Aints anymore

By Paul Tenorio
Monday, December 7, 2009

There was a sense of calm on the New Orleans Saints' sideline late in Sunday afternoon's 33-30 overtime win over the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

The Saints trailed by seven with less than two minutes to play, and Redskins place kicker Shaun Suisham was lining up to attempt a 23-yard field goal that would all but seal their first loss of the season, but New Orleans players said afterward no one on the visiting bench thought the game was over.

"Nope," Saints running back Mike Bell said. "No way, José."

Once considered the bottom-feeders of the National Football League, a franchise famously nicknamed the "Aints," New Orleans remains the only undefeated team in the league other than the Indianapolis Colts.

So while some Redskins fans might have been bracing for something to go wrong the way New Orleans fans once did, the mentality on the Saints' side of the field showed the shift in attitude that comes with winning.

"I knew we were going to win this game," Bell said. "And the first [step] was that he was going to miss" the kick.

Suisham's short kick did just that -- going wide right -- giving quarterback Drew Brees an opportunity to tie the score with 1 minute 52 seconds remaining and 80 yards to go.

Five plays and 33 seconds later, the Saints scored. Soon after that, they were celebrating a 12th consecutive win, an NFC South Division title and a still unblemished record.

"I definitely believe in destiny, and I believe in karma and what goes around comes around," Brees said. "We have been on the other side of this deal probably too many times. Maybe it's our time that we start catching some of the breaks and start being the team that wins them like this in the end. I feel like if you continue to do things the right way then good things happen to you."

The win displayed the mentality of a team built to win games such as this, players said, to find a way even when it seems everything is against them.

Sunday the Saints' defense surrendered 30 points to the Redskins, who had not scored that many since 2007.

Still, the same unit, led by former Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, came up with two key turnovers late: an interception by Jonathan Vilma that halted the Redskins' last drive of regulation, and Chris McAlister's forced fumble and recovery that set up the winning field goal in overtime.

"It's just the leadership, the philosophy of our coaches that permeates through us as players, and we go out there and we just get it done," safety Darren Sharper said. "A lot of teams in that position would have been like, 'Oh man, it's just not our day. Okay they got us.'

"We didn't think like that. We just thought, 'Okay, our time is going to come. Just keep playing.' And that mentality a lot of times helps you win games like this, and it definitely did today."

In the locker room afterward, players celebrated and donned their new division champion hats. Down the hallway, the Redskins lamented a game that slipped away.

The polarity of the moment was something not lost on Saints safety Pierson Prioleau, who played for Washington from 2005 to 2007.

"I tell you what, playing in Washington I've been through some of these games," Prioleau said. "You usually end up on the wrong end of the stick. Fortunately today I'm a New Orleans Saint, and I'm happy to be here and we ended up on the right end of the stick, and that's why we're wearing these hats right now. We never give up.

"It shows in practice; it shows in how we prepare for the game. The game isn't over until it's over, and a lot of things had to happen our way in the end there to give us an opportunity to win the game. Fortunately they did."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company