New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton brushed off a specific question Saturday night about how gratifying his team’s 26-24 playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles was after he was not allowed to coach last year during his bounty suspension.

However, later in the postgame news conference, Payton did briefly reference the suspension, lumping it in with all of the other reasons why he’s so proud of the way his team responded to adversity this year.

“With the injuries we’ve had -- and we’ve had a number of them -- and with all of the other stuff, including last year, we are sitting here with 12 wins. And I am extremely proud of them,” Payton said.

It’s easy to forget that the Saints were battling so much adversity to start this season, since they got off to such a great 5-0 start and so quickly returned to elite status with Payton and new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan leading the charge. But Payton made a point even last week to make sure his players were proud of their 11-win season – which he stressed is an impressive accomplishment in the NFL, especially considering their tough strength of schedule.

In the preseason, the Saints lost three potential starters to season-ending injuries: linebackers Will Smith and Victor Butler and defensive end Kenyon Coleman. Over the past two months, they also lost starting cornerback Jabari Greer and starting safety Kenny Vaccaro, And they’ve also lost role players like Joe Morgan, Jonathan Vilma and Patrick Robinson, among others, along the way.

Payton admitted during the Saints’ late-season slump that he still wasn’t completely sure of this team’s identity – since it’s actually a younger roster than most people realize. But he has clearly been impressed with the way they responded after some poor road performances by putting up a good fight at Carolina in a 17-13 loss in Week 16, then winning at Philadelphia.

In fact, Payton’s only regret on Sunday seemed to be that the Saints didn’t win by more after the way they executed so many things so well against the Eagles.