Saints staying optimistic about season in wake of third loss

NEW ORLEANS -- As Week 3 comes to an end, a week that saw Drew Brees out of the lineup because of injury for the first time since joining the Saints, the veteran quarterback remained very optimistic about his playing chances this week.

During multiple interviews Sunday following the Saints' 27-22 loss to the Panthers, Brees expressed confidence he will play Sunday against the Cowboys. Coach Sean Payton said Monday the team is continuing to monitor Brees' rotator cuff injury, but the coach also was confident Brees could be back under center this week.

"The prognosis is when it is strong and healthy, he goes, and until then, he doesn't," Payton said at Monday's news conference.

Backup quarterback Luke McCown, who was thrust into the starting role against the Panthers, said he'll continue to prepare this week like he always does, as if he's going to start.

"Drew's words to me were, 'I feel exponentially better everyday,'" McCown said. "How that translates to him throwing and moving around, we'll see."

McCown said he appreciated the support Brees provided from the sideline.

As for Payton, he said he didn't want his players to be distracted last week by a decision on whether Brees would play Sunday. That's why he didn't wait until Sunday to announce that Brees would sit out the Carolina game.

"I felt most importantly just for our team going on the road, just with a large distraction it might be with our starting quarterback, the question of whether he'd play or not, and really it was that morning, that Friday that we just felt like (the injury) was not where it needed to be," Payton said. "It was also a chance for our players to go, 'Hey, here we go. This is going to be Luke's opportunity to play well for us.' ... (It) just felt like it was the smart thing to do at the end of the week."

There was nothing but praise for McCown on Monday. McCown rewarded his team for having faith in him by connecting on 31 of 38 passes for 310 yards. However, it was McCown's late-game interception -- on an incredible leaping catch by Panthers cornerback Josh Norman in the end zone -- that ultimately sealed the Saints' fate. Although the team was satisfied with his performance, McCown said it wasn't good enough.

An attitude of not good enough continues to permeate through the team. As close as they've been from winning in all three of their games, the Saints understand they'll need to dig themselves out of a deep hole in order to salvage their season.

"There is no way to sugarcoat that," Payton said. "We have to find a way to get our first win. So as coaches we have to pay close attention to the details. All the specifics that win and lose games and we have to do a better job and be as demanding as ever and point out the things as we watch this tape.

"There are a handful of things that are encouraging and then there are some things that have to be improved upon, but there is no time to dwell right now," Payton continued. "It's really more a time of urgency to go out. Obviously I've said this before where we can't go play this game quick enough and because, listen, there is that sense of urgency to get a win."

The Saints return to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this week in search of -- almost shockingly -- their first home victory in more than 11 months. Payton told me they aren't changing hotels or doing anything different logistically to try and shake their six-game home losing streak.

Many Saints players, including locker room leaders Benjamin Watson and Brandon Browner, are frustrated and disappointed, but not hopeless. The fact that they were a couple of plays away from winning in each of their losses is a sign that if they can get a win -- some how, some way -- it'll be easier for them to string together a few more and ignite their season.

Follow Omar Ruiz on Twitter @OmarRuiz.

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