METAIRIE, La. -- If all goes according to plan, the New Orleans Saints won't have to leave home again until the Super Bowl.
That's a huge advantage for any team -- but it's especially big for Drew Brees and a Saints offense that practically vanished during three consecutive road games over the past three weeks.
The Saints are leading the NFL with 38 points per game at home this season. But they scored a total of only 50 points over their past three outings, losing 13-10 at Dallas, winning 28-14 at Tampa Bay and winning 12-9 at Carolina.
Brees, meanwhile, has thrown four touchdown passes in each of his past three home games, tying an NFL record, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The only other quarterbacks in league history to do that are Dan Marino in 1984 and Brees in 2013.
But Brees threw a total of only two TD passes with three interceptions over the past three weeks. His yardage totals in those three games were 127, 201 and 203.
"I think [it's just a matter of] really establishing the tempo, which for us creates the rhythm by which we perform well," said Brees, who believes the offense needs minor tweaking more than major overhaul. "When we're clicking on all cylinders, we're running the ball effectively, we're good in the short-to-intermediate passing game, which opens up the shots down the field. We possess the ball and we convert first downs, and those results lead to points."
The drop-off has been rather stunning. But Brees was hardly the only one to express confidence things will turn around. And it's hard to blame the Saints for their bravado, considering their offensive track record.
Before this three-game slump, the Saints had scored 37.2 points per game -- the fifth-most through a team's first 11 games in NFL history.
"Not worried at all. There's no doubt," insisted running back Alvin Kamara, who was one of multiple people to use the expression "shooting ourselves in the foot," especially when it came to describing Monday night's game at Carolina.
The offense was flagged a total of eight times against the Panthers, with some of those penalties wiping out big gains.
"Just little things," Kamara said. "You can't do things like that when you want to get back going on offense. But it's little things. We know what they are, and we can get them corrected."
"Obviously, you're constantly looking at what are the things you can do to score, how can you improve," Saints coach Sean Payton added. "I think this past week we shot ourselves in the foot quite a bit. On the road at Dallas, that's a good defense and we felt it was going to be a low-scoring game. At Tampa, the same way. So there's some things that we feel like we can clean up, and there's some things I know from my standpoint and us as coaches that we can improve on. And we'll work to do that."
Two of the Saints' biggest issues are their lack of depth at the wide receiver position and some injuries on the offensive line. But both areas are trending in the right direction.
Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead looks as if he could return to the lineup Sunday after he missed the past five games because of a torn pectoral.
And veteran receiver Ted Ginn Jr. returned to practice this week after being put on injured reserve because of a knee injury in Week 7. It's possible Ginn could play against Pittsburgh, but he should definitely be at full speed in time for the playoffs.
The Saints obviously have two go-to guys in their passing game (receiver Michael Thomas has 109 catches and Kamara has 77). But after that, it's a bit of a crapshoot.
Several young, inexperienced receivers have stepped up in small doses -- including rookie third-round pick Tre'Quan Smith and undrafted rookie Keith Kirkwood. But over the past four games, receivers Smith, Kirkwood, Tommylee Lewis and Austin Carr have combined for a total of 11 catches.
"It's always challenging any time you have new guys that you really just haven't had a ton of time with," Brees said. "We all kind of laughed back during that Thanksgiving game when four undrafted free agents caught touchdowns, three of which it was their first touchdown ever, right? But it takes time, and there's so many nuances to this offense, too, and such a trust factor and the chemistry that goes into the passing game. And I think we've gone through some growing pains at times, but we're progressing."
Another factor that Saints guard Larry Warford mentioned was simply getting away from the fundamentals.
"You know coming out of camp, you're really hyperfocused and then you get through the season and it's kind of [dragging] on and you kind of lose focus with that stuff sometimes," Warford said. "But having these last three games, being able to look at it, we know now it's just like, 'All right, we've gotta get our fundamentals back together because we're slacking on the simple stuff, and it's the easy stuff that we can control.'
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"I think it's more us, to be honest [than opposing defenses]. One guy messing up here, a penalty here, a missed assignment here, a misalignment that can screw up a whole play. And we know it."
Last but not least, if the Saints need any additional spark, the Mercedes‐Benz Superdome should help provide it.
Not only does it help with things such as communication at the line of scrimmage, but Kamara said playing in the dome is "like you've got 13 people on the field."
"The dome is that much advantage with the noise, with the energy, just the atmosphere that brings," Kamara said. "I think we've just got a little bit extra confidence when we play at home."
Fellow running back Mark Ingram said the Saints aren't worried -- but their opponents actually "should be worried that we're finding ways to win and not playing our best football."
"Once we get this thing clicking, [the way or defense has been] balling, us balling, we'll be all right," Ingram said.