Alvin Kamara

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara runs against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman) Content Exchange

Alvin Kamara was speaking for himself, but he was confident the rest of the team felt the same way: The cockiest version of the New Orleans Saints is the one that is coming off of a loss.

That is where the Saints currently stand, preparing to take on the New England Patriots after a 26-7 setback to the Carolina Panthers last week. Some use the word humbling to describe such a defeat, but that’s not how Kamara sees it. This, he believes, is where the team’s ego comes in.

“We take pride in being able to win games and not lose very often,” Kamara said. “I take pride in that. I don’t see us going out and losing two games, three games in a row. If we lose, all right, cool, it’s the NFL, anybody can lose any given Sunday. But I guarantee you we’re winning the next game.”

It’s hard to argue Kamara’s logic considering what the Saints have done in his time here.

Since the start of the 2017 season, Kamara’s rookie year, the Saints are an NFL-best 50-16. In that time, the Saints are 10-3 in the regular season after a loss (two of the losses occurred in the final week of the regular season, and the outcome of this week’s game is yet to be determined) with a plus-103 scoring margin. Kamara has never played for a team that lost three in a row in the NFL.

Part of that is simply because the Saints have had a very good team these past several seasons, and good teams tend to win a lot of games. But there’s also a mental side to this that New Orleans has conquered in recent seasons.

As Kamara said, it's the NFL. Even the best teams lose games.

“But I think we do a good job of responding around here,” he said. “That’s just what we plan to do: Go out and respond, do what we got to do and do what we want to do, and that’s win on Sundays. Nobody likes losing. I don’t like losing. I don’t like the way it feels.”

Count defensive end Cam Jordan among those who hate losing. He gives himself a full 24 hours after game day, win or lose, to experience an emotional reaction to what transpired on the field, to get upset with a missed play or bask in the glory of a huge win.

Once that time has passed, he mentally flushes the game. It is out of sight, out of mind, and he is focused on what is in front of him.

It took him a few years to get the hang of his “24-hour rule.” When he entered the NFL, he’d allow himself to ride the emotional roller coaster after games. And he found that his play would then follow the same path of peaks and valleys, which is not sustainable over the course of a long season.

“After that game, it’s never as good as you think it is, it’s never as bad as you think it is,” Jordan said. “There’s always ways to correct and improve. That’s where you get the buy in (for the 24-hour rule) from starting out saying it to then fully understanding it to then actually believing it.”

For quarterback Jameis Winston, it’s about the team’s process. Study the game, build on the things that went right, fix the things that did not, and move on to the next challenge without being bogged down by what happened the last time out.

“That's the main thing,” Winston said. “This team, we're a winning team. We know how to win. We're resilient, and we're going to be (resilient). We just have to execute better and get the job done."

The process doesn’t change, win or lose. But there is a different air around the team after a loss, Kamara said. It is a sense of personal accountability.

Coach Sean Payton, he said, takes losses personally. So does Kamara and other team leaders, such as Jordan and Demario Davis. Kamara said a loss presents an opportunity to let people know the team is not going to get comfortable in that setting. That’s where the cockiness comes in.

“It’s understanding what the standard is around here,” he said. “We’re one of those teams where we are usually the aggressor. When you poke a bear or punch a bear, you get bit back.”

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