CHARLOTTE -- A year ago, Drew Brees was the toast of New Orleans.
Through three games, this season's looked like the kind of hangover his new hometown often provides.
The Saints' Pro Bowl quarterback's year has epitomized the struggles of the entire team, which has slogged through a difficult slate and sits 0-3 heading into Sunday's game against Carolina.
Brees has thrown just one touchdown and seven interceptions, and his passer rating sits at 57.1, 30th in the league.
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It's a dramatic departure from the last three years, when he's piled up 11,153 passing yards, 77 touchdowns and 33 interceptions and a rating of 96.2 -- along with three trips to the Pro Bowl.
"Well, I will answer this question for the 5,000th time," Brees replied when asked about the slow start. "We have just made this thing way too complicated. We know how good of a team we are. We proved that time and time again. Coming off a season like last year, returning 21 starters all of these things make you automatically think that things are going to continue to get better and better.
"You almost try to be too perfect. What we've done here is taken the simple things that have gotten us to this point and made them way too complicated. The approach we have taken now is just getting back to the basics. If you take a look at the tape from these last couple of games, the fundamentals just aren't there, the technique is not there. We are just trying to get back to the basics here."
• MISSING DEUCE: The Saints are acknowledging their offense is going to have to change without running back Deuce McAllister, who blew out his knee in the last game before the bye week.
The 6-foot-1, 232-pound McAllister has long been one of the more underrated runners in the league, a physical force. Now, they're left with the quicker but slight Reggie Bush and Aaron Stecker (their version of Carolina's Nick Goings). They'll also activate Pierre Thomas, an undrafted rookie from Illinois.
"If you look at Reggie and Deuce they are different type runners," Brees said. "Deuce was kind of a hammer. There were certain things that either one of them did better than the other and we try to just put those guys in that position. It just means that other guys will have to pick up the slack.
"It doesn't prevent us from doing anything that we otherwise would have done, but it does requires us to be a little more efficient with some of the other things."
Second-year coach Sean Payton was even more open about the differences, admitting they were significant.
"It changes quite a bit," he said. "There will be a little bit more pressure on Reggie Bush I'm sure from a standpoint of carries in the backfield. It changes the dynamics of the offense to some degree and what we will have to adjust each weekend."
• GOING BYE-BYE: Brees and Payton had differing opinions on having a bye after just three games, with the quarterback suggesting they needed a mental break from their losing streak more than anything else.
"Everybody got away; we all took a step back and were able to refresh and recharge those batteries a little bit," Brees said. "We had some guys that were banged up. At the beginning of the year you look at that bye week at week three and you hate to have one that early, but all things considered, it came at the perfect time.
"We all needed to take a step back and evaluate how we got to this point and how we can move forward from here. A lot of it is just taking it as an opportunity for a fresh start."
Payton said they spent the bye week analyzing the problems through the three losses, hoping to make progress on the fine points. Of course, problems like a minus-8 turnover ratio aren't the kind of things film study can necessarily fix.
"When you start 0-3 like we have, it's tough to sit for a week," Payton said. "The tough part of it is anytime you have a bye after a tough loss it's difficult. Obviously, it's more difficult when you've had three losses in a row."
• EXTRA POINTS: Panthers coach John Fox went ahead and declared linebackers Dan Morgan (ankle/Achilles) and Adam Seward (calf), along with Goings (concussion) out for Sunday's game ... QB Jake Delhomme remains listed as doubtful, as he was last week. But he hasn't practiced, so expect him to have the same inactive third quarterback role on Sunday ... Fox wasn't sure how to refer to wide receiver Steve Smith, saying he was "one-play limited" after trainers looked at his leg Friday. Probably, it was just a cramp, but Fox added "we think he's fine, but I'm not sure."