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Saints @ Falcons: Time to go from Sprint Mode to Marathon Mode?

Before I even touch on this matchup, I just want to say how crazy of a week it's been. After that improbable and ridiculous Redskins win we somehow managed to pull off (I'm still not quite sure how), the aftermath has been comical. By now you've all seen the TV Shot to Death video that's been circulating, and you've also seen the rise in popularity to celebrity status that The Uknown Who Dat has gotten. Funny, this "news" has been courtesy of the fan base almost entirely as the national media, relatively speaking, continues to ignore us (though the Brees appearance on Leno was nice to see). Add all these strangely funny things happening this week to the laughable underperforming play of Charles Grant, and you've got yourself the trifecta of hilarity.

Anyway, I digress, and as the Saints enter this weekend's clash against the Falcons it's time, in my opinion, to shift gears from sprint mode to marathon mode.

Saints vs Falcons coverage

Don't confuse my title for saying that I don't think the Saints should go for 16-0. I'll settle that by coming out and saying the following: If the Saints are 15-0 going into Carolina in week 17, I think Drew Brees should start the game. What I am saying is this: The ultimate goal of the Saints is winning the Super Bowl, and the less risks we take to ensure that the ultimate goal has the best chance of happening, the better.

There's a fine line between what you can and can't do when you're seeking perfection at 16-0 and winning a Super Bowl, but at this point with the division sealed up, being one win away from a first round playoff bye and having a two game lead on home field advantage with four games left, I think a slight tweak in approach is called for.There is nothing I would have changed from the approach the Saints had throughout the Redskins game. It was close, sloppy, and it saw the Saints go down two scores multiple times. They had to go for the win and give it their all. Should the same scenario happen this week at Atlanta, then they shouldn't change the approach there either.

That said, it's entirely possible with both Michael Turner and Matt Ryan likely out Sunday that the Saints could have a three posession lead in the third quarter. Yes, they had trouble against a struggling Redskins team; Yes, the defensive backfield is in shambles; Any given Sunday, that's why they play the game yada, yada, etc... I get all that. But they're also capable of blowing them out. If that happens, I saw some things in the Patriots game I would not want repeated.

At this point it's not one game at a time anymore. You have to consider what's best long term now. After Bill Belicheck quit on the Saints down 38-17, I remember thinking to myself as Mike Bell took the clock running carries: "Why not run Lynell Hamilton here. He's active..." Sure enough, Bell went limping to the sidelines and had me cursing, "You idiots!"

And who came in for Bell but Pierre Thomas. Ok, fine, Bell is the closer and you don't want to give the Patriots any new signs of life because of their pedigree. At this point, though, I would argue we have too much to lose. Kyle Eckel was about to be cut, for God's sake. Throw him to the wolves and let him run the football. If we happen to be up 21 points in the third quarter against Atlanta on Sunday, I not only want Lynell Hamilton running the ball, I want Mark Brunell handing the ball off and I want him running behind Zach Strief, Jamar Nesbit, Nick Leckey and Darnell Dinkins. I also want Usama Young, Pierson Prioleau, Marcus McCauley and Chris Reis in the defensive backfield. Yes, the Saints would potentially be exposed to a comeback but they can always put their starters back in without risking them during that potential comeback run.

I'm not saying we don't go for 16-0, but I'm saying the Saints have to be smarter about how they try to do it, and it can't be a guns blazing effort. No one here wants to see the Saints get 16-0 at the expense of the ultimate prize. Over the next four games I'm sure we'll see the Saints build a big lead at least a time or two, and I'm hopeful they've learned their lesson from how the game ended against New England. It's not one game at a time anymore, because they've clinched a playoff birth and they're about to clinch a first round bye. The Saints are now in the full blown marathon discussion, and some pacing would be smart.

Do you guys think I'm being too cautious? I'm sure there's some of you that are thinking 16-0 at all cost. I know you can't play worrying about injuries, but isn't there a difference between being scared and being smart?