- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Drew Brees has lived through this act before with the New Orleans Saints, and it hasn’t turned out well yet.

The Saints climbed out of considerable early season holes in 2007 (0-4), 2012 (0-4) and 2014 (1-3), each time getting back to .500 around midseason, only to run out of steam.

This season, the Saints (4-4) lost their first three games and were 1-4 before their three-game winning streak evened their record and got them back into contention.

Now New Orleans hosts the struggling Tennessee Titans (1-6), who fired coach Ken Whisenhunt this week as beat-up rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota tries to come back from a sprained knee.

Odds-makers have listed the Saints as more than one-touchdown favorites, seemingly dismissing New Orleans’ failures to capitalize on similar opportunities in past years.

That sounds about right to Brees, who is coming off one of the best games of his career - a seven-touchdown performance in a 52-49 victory over the New York Giants.

“This is definitely a different team,” Brees said. “We’ve taken the approach that every week is important, and (there is) such a sense of urgency and there is really no margin for error.”

When coach Sean Payton purged about half the Saints’ roster this past offseason, he did so with the aim of infusing his team with young, high-character players who’d play hard and unselfishly, and be respectful of players in leadership positions, such as veteran tight end Ben Watson.

One theme Watson has emphasized this week is that NFL teams can be dangerous during periods of transition.

“When players’ backs are against the wall, we come out and perform - a lot of times to the best of our ability,” Watson said.

“So you understand when there’s adversity, and they’re dealing with a lot of adversity there (in Tennessee), that they’re going to come out ready to play on Sunday - and they should. That’s what we would do.”

Tennessee interim coach Mike Mularkey, a former head coach in Buffalo and Jacksonville, said he believes his experience has prepared him well to get the best out of what’s left for the Titans this season.

“I feel like I’m supposed to be here, but not certainly under these circumstances. I don’t think anybody really likes these circumstances,” Mularkey said.

“I don’t know many that have had the opportunity that I’ve had, so I’m going to try to do the best I can.”

Some things to know about the Titans’ matchup with the rejuvenated Saints:

WATSON’S RENAISSANCE: In his 12th season, Saints tight end Ben Watson appears to be in the midst of a renaissance. Watson says he hasn’t really changed as a player, but is being asked to do more in the receiving game because the Saints traded star tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle. Watson has as many receptions (38) as Graham this season. Watson also has 472 yards receiving and three TDs, slightly better than Graham in both categories.

“As players, you understand there are a lot of things you’re capable of doing, but you’re only asked to do certain things at certain times, and that’s fine,” Watson said. “My goal is to help the team win no matter what that is.”

IS THIS THING ON?: Jason Michael is in his second season as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator, but Sunday will be his first game calling the plays. Whisenhunt, fired on Tuesday, took care of that the past 23 games. Mularkey said Michael knows the Titans’ offense inside and out.

“There’s a big trust factor there, and I trust him that he’ll put us in the right situation,” Mularkey said. “I’m going to let him have it and if I think there’s something that needs to be addressed, I’ll address it in between series.”

PRESSURE: New Orleans’ three-game winning streak has coincided with an increase in pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Saints have 12 sacks combined in the past three games, with defensive end Cameron Jordan getting five.

MORE DGB: With Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright nursing a sprained MCL in his left knee, Mularkey said rookie Dorial Green-Beckham will get more playing time. The Titans will get wide receiver Harry Douglas back after missing two games with injured ribs, but Green-Beckham is an inviting target at 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds. The second-round draft pick has seven catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

INGRAM’S ROLE: Mark Ingram’s workload could increase even more following a season-ending injury to fellow running back Khiry Robinson last week. The former Alabama Heisman Trophy winner already leads the club in carries (118), yards rushing (530) and touchdowns (five) and is fourth on the team in receptions (33). His 804 yards from scrimmage ranks fourth in the NFL.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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