TAMPA, Florida — Training camp was long, preseason was plodding.
Zero exhibition games turned into seven. The supposed most talented roster in the NFL was slowly getting into shape, but there were only intermittent glimpses of brilliance. The ingredients on the shopping list were reason enough to believe the dish would turn out, and some taste tests along the way kept hope afloat, but it took some faith not to believe the flawed parts didn't create a flawed whole.
Preseason ended on Sunday. A healthy roster. An organized defense. All of the pieces and all of the promise blended to form what might have been the most dominant performance the Saints have had under Sean Payton. What else would you call a 38-3 drubbing of Tom Brady's Buccaneers? No mixed messages here. This was a statement game screaming one thing.
These Saints are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.