Long-time Saints fans know what it feels like to lose big, but the team has been good long enough now for some very young fans to not really comprehend it.
"I'm glad they're winning," a kid, sitting behind me in the Dome during the game against Buffalo, told his dad. "But they should be winning by more."
Ten year-old Bradley, throwing paper planes from the terrace in 1995, would have been staggered by the ability of any Saints fan, old or young, to make such a statement.
Losing big just doesn't happen much anymore. Since 2009, when what we folks over at B&G refer to as the current phase of the Payton era began, the Saints have only lost ten games by more than one score (or 8 points — a touchdown plus a two point conversion).
The meaningful number is even less than that. Four of the ten losses happened in 2012, sans Sean Payton; another of them was the season finale against Carolina in 2009, when no starters played. Another of the losses was to Tampa in 2010, when the starters were pulled early.
That leaves only three games, not including the new loss to Seattle.
But we're not here just to say the Saints don't lose badly very often. That doesn't help much when you've just lost very badly.
Let's take a look at what happens after the Saints lose badly, so that we might get an idea for what'll happen in the latest biggest game of the year vs Carolina.
It seems likely the team will take one of only two paths from here on out.
The Path of 2012
I brushed aside the 2012 numbers a moment ago, but we need to take a look at them, because they could be relevant.
The first loss of more than 8 points the Saints suffered in 2012 was to Denver. They rebounded with a solid win in primetime against Philadelphia. A good sign, yes?
The problem is the other three. They were consecutive, occurring in that awful San Francisco/Atlanta/New York stretch that ended the Saints' desperate playoff hopes. At that point during 2012, one bad loss built on the next, each game leading into another, worse performance. By the time it was over, there was no doubt the Saints would be, you know, home for the holidays.
Silver lining: When the Saints finally rebounded from the most lopsided of those losses — the 52-27 whuppin' put on them by the New York Giants — they did so with their best performance of 2012, crushing Tampa 41-0.
Even in 2012, the question wasn't if the Saints would respond resoundingly...it was when, and if the response would come in time to save the season.
It 2012, it didn't.
The Path that Rocks
We might consider the Denver loss in 2012 as part of this body of evidence. The Saints responded to that one the next week with a 15 point victory.
In 2010, after losing to Arizona by 10, the Saints beat Tampa 31-6. After losing to Cleveland by a couple of scores, they beat Pittsburgh.
In 2011, the Saints lost to St Louis 31-21, then came back home and beat Tampa in an 11 point victory, controlled by the Saints throughout, that wasn't as close as the score indicates.
Do some math and you find that the average margin of victory in the week following these games is about 15 points.
This scenario would have the Saints go on a tear here to close out the season, cementing their division title and playoff bye.
Another factoid that may be relevant in our current situation is this: Sean Payton has not lost back to back games since those last three of 2009, one of which was a meaningless rest game, though consecutive losses did happen in each of his first three seasons in New Orleans.
Still, the trends generally seem to be in the Saints' favor. They own the Superdome field at night. They generally respond to losses with wins. And they generally respond to multi-score losses with multi-score wins.
Against a surging Carolina team, in a game that may soon determine the NFC South division title, the Saints have little choice but to keep those trends alive.
For more on the Saints, New Orleans, and everything in the margins, check out the Black & Gold Review.