"That he was everything they said he was," said Byars.
STATS OF THE WEEK
?Touchdown Tommy Vardell of the Browns is touchdownless in his first nine games as a pro.
?Cowboy running back Emmitt Smith has outscored the Seahawks this season 72-56.
?The Viking defense hasn't allowed a quarterback to pass for 300 yards or a runner to rush for 100 in a game this season.
A SECOND CHANCE
A year ago the Saints were 9-1 and romping through the NFC West, and they looked as if they might finally make some headway in the playoffs. But then New Orleans dropped four games in a row, barely hung on to win the division and lost to the Falcons in a wild-card playoff. This year the Saints, 7-2 after Sunday's 31-14 win over the Patriots, will have another shot at getting it right.
New Orleans is headed into the killer part of its schedule—a road game against the 49ers this Sunday, followed by three home games in 10 days against the Redskins, the Dolphins and the Falcons—with about the same lineup the team had a year ago. Only three of the Saints' 24 starters arc different: guard Derek Kennard, running back Vaughn Dunbar and corner Reginald Jones.
The defense, ranked third in the league, appears to be up to the challenge, but the offense may not have the firepower needed to take New Orleans the next step—winning a playoff game for the first time in the team's history. Quarterback Bobby Hebert (13 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) threw a horrible interception late in a 16-10 loss to San Francisco on Sept. 27, proving once again that he can't get it done in the clutch. Further, the Saints average only 3.6 yards per rush. With 436 yards on 124 carries, Dunbar has to do better than 3.5 yards a carry to justify his first-round selection.
"I'm not into that next-step stuff," says New Orleans coach Jim Mora. "I'm into the next game. That's it. What the hell is the next step? If you're good enough to win, you win, and you take the next step."