CHAMPAIGN—Two lost fumbles. An interception. Ten penalties for 91 yards. A 20-point deficit. The pain of it all.
Hearkening back to yesteryear, the New Orleans Saints were giving their fans reason to reach for those never-to-be-forgotten paper bags.
the Bears on Sunday, the Saints are one of six 3-0 teams in the NFL.
"If you can beat three of last year's playoff teams, what's that say about us?" Saints coach Jim Haslett said of defeating Tampa Bay, Green Bay and now the Bears.
It says that things are going pretty well in the French Quarter, not to mention the first through fourth quarters.
Well, maybe not the first quarter. Less than four minutes into the second quarter, the Saints were down 20-0.
"The whole first half, we weren't ourselves," said rookie receiver Donté Stallworth, who caught the winning touchdown pass. "We just marched down the field and made some plays."
How the Saints made those plays might gain some attention around the league. Running back Deuce McAllister rushed for more than 100 yards in each of their first two games, but the Bears held him to 45. Instead, quarterback Aaron Brooks thrived, throwing three touchdown passes, running for another and adding a two-point conversion.
But the difference between this year's model and some Saints clubs of recent vintage is that the players not only got mad, they got more than even.
"There was a lot of football left," Stallworth said. "We weren't going to panic. It was just a matter of settling down on offense. We kept our composure."
The Saints slumped to 7-9 last year after making the playoffs in 2000. But sometimes teams can tell that good vibes are percolating. Brooks said that was evident in training camp.
"We all thought it could and can be something special," Brooks said. "It can only get better for us."
"We know what we have in each other," receiver Joe Horn said. "You know what? We came out and aired them out in the second half."
What does that say about the Saints? That the brown paper bag industry is in serious decline in New Orleans.