Offense, defense, and special teams. The three facets of a football game. The Saints won their sixth straight game today, improving to 10-3 on the season. It was their most complete game of the year, because they performed well in all three facets. Mike Triplett of the Times Picayune agrees.

For the most part, the Saints (10-3) gave their most complete effort in more than a month on offense, defense and special teams, to extend their win streak to six games.

And even though they're still trailing the equally hot Atlanta Falcons (11-2) in the NFC South standings, the Saints appear to be peaking at the right time, with just three weeks left in the regular season.

"I like where we are," said linebacker Scott Shanle, who said the Saints were "at a crossroads" when they started 4-3 and began to turn things around with their Oct. 31 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I think that was a perfect time for an elite team like the Pittsburgh Steelers to come in in a big game, a prime-time game, for us to say, 'This is who we really are,'" Shanle said. "And since that point, you've kind of seen the real New Orleans Saints."

Quarterback Drew Brees went one step further, suggesting that the Saints' ability to overcome their sluggish start was even better for them than if they had started the season on a tear, like they did a year ago en route to a 13-0 start and a Super Bowl championship.

This year's team needed to establish its own identity, Brees said, and he thinks the players have been doing that over the past two months.

"It gives you an edge," Brees said. "I think more so than anything, you just hear so much of all the stuff through the offseason, the 'hangover,' the this, the that. But you've kind of got to go through it and experience a little bit of it yourself.

The Saints team that lost to the Cleveland Browns is long gone. Hangover, sloppy, lethargic, or any other term you want to use to describe the team back on October 24th is fair. Cleveland smacked the Saints around the field that day. Lately, it's been the Saints doing the smacking. Scott Shanle's point about the Steelers game coming at the right time echoes true. Since Halloween, the Saints have been one of the best teams in the NFL. Sunday, they gave their best performance of the season.