Saints undaunted by road to the NFC title
AP Sports Writer
METAIRIE, La. — Drew Brees has a simple explanation for why the Saints haven’t looked as good on the road as at home.
The quarterback points out that it’s a common trend around the league, affecting several of the NFL’s top teams.
“The Patriots — where did their three losses come? On the road. Denver — where did their two losses come? On the road. Seattle — where did their one loss come? On the road,” Brees said Thursday. “You can take every team that is kind of at the top and say, ‘Where did their losses come?’ Most of the time they came on the road.”
New Orleans is 6-0 in the Superdome and 3-2 elsewhere. On Monday night, the Saints visit Seattle with NFC supremacy on the line.
“It is certainly more difficult to go on the road and win,” Brees conceded. “Especially in the type of environment that we’re going to.”
That doesn’t mean the Saints see themselves as underdogs.
The Saints have been pretty good on the road overall since Brees and coach Sean Payton arrived in 2006, going 36-25 in the regular season.
The Seahawks are 5-0 in their home stadium, renowned for acoustics that make it a contender for the loudest outdoor venue in the league. The last time the Saints played there was in the playoffs in January 2011, when a Seahawks team that had narrowly qualified for the postseason with a 7-9 record upset an 11-5 Saints squad.
“It’s hard to win, period, in the league, especially on the road,” Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “But at some point you’re going to have to get a crucial road win and I think this is the week in which we’re going to try to do that.”
New Orleans’ only two losses have come at New England, 30-27, and at the New York Jets, 26-20. The loss to the Patriots was decided by a precision pass from Tom Brady with only 5 seconds left.
The Saints nearly lost at Tampa Bay in Week 2, but pulled that game out on a last-second field goal, 16-14. New Orleans also won 26-18 at Chicago and 17-13 at Atlanta in its last game on Nov. 21.
New Orleans needed two first downs on its final drive to put away last-place Atlanta, and the Saints’ point total dropped their scoring average to 21.2 points on the road, compared to 33.2 in the Superdome.
The Saints also benefited from some significant breaks before escaping the Georgia Dome with the victory.
Brees was nearly intercepted in the end zone on New Orleans’ first touchdown drive, but two Falcons defenders collided hard and the ball came loose from Desmond Trufant’s grasp. Later, Akiem Hicks was credited with a drive-stalling sack that could have been flagged for a personal foul after his hand came across quarterback Matt Ryan’s face mask.
In the fourth quarter, Atlanta was driving for a potential go-ahead score when Keyunta Dawson stripped Darius Johnson at the Saints 20. Finally, normally reliable kicker Matt Bryant missed a 52-yard field goal with a little less than 3 minutes to go.
Atlanta, which is 2-9, also finished with some statistical advantages that caught the eye. The Falcons had 22 first downs to New Orleans’ 19 and dominated time of possession: 33:46 to 26:14.
“A win is a win, last time I checked,” Jenkins said. “A ‘W’ doesn’t have stats next to it.”
“And whether it be now or in the playoffs, you’re going to have to win on the road,” he added. “I don’t think we doubt our ability to win on the road. If there’s a trend, I don’t think that translates into this game. We’re preparing to beat a good team that has an outstanding home record and that’s the challenge that presents itself.”
The Saints practiced outdoors on a chilly Thanksgiving Day, with temperatures in the high 40s to low 50s. Payton expects the weather to be a factor in Seattle, and will adjust his game plan accordingly. But Payton bristles at the notion that his pass-heavy, dome team is less formidable outdoors, in cold weather.
“It’s a typical stereotype with a dome team,” Payton said. “I don’t know what else to tell someone than to do some research.”
NOTES: RG Jahri Evans and RB Darren Sproles, who both sat out last week’s game at Atlanta with ankle injuries, participated fully in practice. … DE Glenn Foster (knee) sat out practice.