Big win, but Saints still not where they want to be

Updated: October 20, 2003, 7:31 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS -- For the first time all season the New Orleans Saints won back-to-back games.

For the first time all season the Saints dominated the game.

For the first time all season the Saints offense looked like the one that led the NFC in scoring last year.

"We've been plugging away, keeping a good attitude and encouraging one another," Saints tight end Ernie Conwell said after the 45-17 victory over Atlanta. "The mind-set has so much to do with life. That has a lot to do with this business and this game. You've got to continue to believe in one another. You have to continue to believe in yourself."

The Saints (3-4) needed the big boost they got from whipping the Falcons after a three-game losing streak that had fans booing them at home.

New Orleans struggled in a lackluster victory over Chicago (1-5) the week before, so thumping Atlanta (1-6) had to be decisive.

The 45 points were the most New Orleans scored against Atlanta in 68 games and the 507 yards of total offense was the most by the Saints since they posted a club-record 557 yards at the Falcons on Sept. 12, 1993.

Aaron Brooks threw three touchdown passes, Deuce McAllister ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns, and Joe Horn caught eight passes for 133 yards and a touchdown.

"The Falcons really got caught with us clicking," McAllister said. "Now, we've just got to go out and do it consistently."

After looking at the film of the game, coach Jim Haslett said the Saints played pretty good in all three phases of the game. There was, however, room for improvement, Haslett said.

The team took care of the little things against the Falcons and had fun in the game, Haslett said. And that counts for a lot.

"When you win, you always gain confidence as a football team," Haslett said.

After playing the bottom of the NFL in the last two games, the Saints have divisional games against the NFC South-leading Carolina Panthers (5-1) and defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) the next two weeks.

"We're excited because we've fought together as a team, and we're climbing out of this hole together as a team," Saints linebacker Orlando Ruff said. "We're peaking right now. This whole team is right where it needs to be. We're looking to be 5-4 with momentum going into the bye week."

The Saints also came out of the game with relatively few new injuries. Tight end Ernie Conwell has a strained left shoulder but will probably be ready to practice on Wednesday, Haslett said. Receiver Donte' Stallworth has a strained left quadriceps suffered during a 69-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the first quarter. He's questionable for the Panthers' game.

Linebacker Sedrick Hodge, who has been out since the second game of the season with a knee injury, will have it checked Tuesday and should return to practice this week, Haslett said.

The good news about injuries and the big victory are all boosts, Haslett said. They must be kept in perspective though, he cautioned.

"We're not where we want to be yet and everybody knows it," Haslett said. "It was nice to get a win, but we're still 3-and-4."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index