NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The stern message from Sean Payton and Drew Brees left little doubt about the postseason aspirations of the New Orleans Saints.
There are few other ways to interpret how critical they were of themselves after Brees struck for five touchdown passes in a 35-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
"It's good when you can not play your best and make certain mistakes and still win like we did," Brees said, referring to a handful of pre-snap penalties, a pair of missed scoring chances and two instances when only 10 Saints were on the field.
"If we continue to repeat these mistakes they will get us beat," Brees continued. "That's not good enough for us. We've set the bar high. We have a high standard. We want to be as perfect as we can out there."
Brees finished 26 of 34 for 332 yards, completing passes to 10 targets. He owns the NFL record with eight career games with five or more TD passes.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham played after missing practice most of the week with a left foot injury and scored on 13- and 15-yard passes over the middle, powering through tackles at the goal line both times.
Rookie Saints receiver Kenny Stills had touchdowns of 69 and 42 yards and Lance Moore snagged a 15-yard scoring pass in his return from a hand injury that sidelined him three games.
Payton generally praised his players' effort and acknowledged he was pleased with winning, but otherwise spoke in gruff tones.
"When you have eight penalties ... and you can't get the right amount of people on the field, then those are things that certainly go against saying you have your swagger," Payton said. "Those are things that are troubling.
"It cost Minnesota in an NFC championship game against us," Payton added, referring to a Vikings penalty for 12 players in the huddle late in that 2010 game.
Thad Lewis was sacked four times, intercepted once by Keenan Lewis, lost two fumbles and appeared shaken up at times. Still, he stayed in the game, finishing with 234 yards passing and one touchdown.
"We're a resilient team, but being resilient is not good enough," Lewis said.
Bills coach Doug Marrone, a former top offensive assistant under Payton in New Orleans, said he expected his young quarterback to be blitzed often, but added that the Saints both disguised and executed their pressure packages well.
"That is a playoff team that we played," Marrone said.
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