Just the facts: Brees is better at home

The Saints' Drew Brees talks with head coach Sean Payton. (Bob Leverone/AP)
The Saints' Drew Brees talks with head coach Sean Payton. (Bob Leverone/AP)
Posted: January 02, 2014

If the forecast is accurate, the weather will be shivering cold when Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints look across the field at the Eagles on Saturday night. The colder the better is the prevailing opinion around here.

If you want to neutralize Brees and the Saints' high-powered offense, then cold, wind, snow, and rain are a good place to start.

The Eagles won't say that, of course.

"No, I don't think so," Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said when asked whether playing in the great outdoors in winter might have a negative impact on Brees and the Saints, a quarterback and team that love playing in their dome.

Truth is, the fact that this game will be played in the cold and at Lincoln Financial Field makes a huge difference. Brees and the Saints were an unbeatable team at home this season and a very beatable one on the road. Brees was the best quarterback in the NFL in the comfortable confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, completing nearly 74 percent of his passes for 27 touchdowns while throwing just three interceptions.

Away from the dome, he completed 64 percent of his passes for 12 touchdowns and threw nine interceptions. The Saints averaged 17.8 points per game on the road, failing to score more than 27 points in any of their games. By contrast, they averaged 34 points per game at home and six times posted 30 or more. In their last three road games this season - all losses - the Saints scored a combined 36 points.

"We are playing the New Orleans Saints, and we are going to get their best, and we just happen to be playing them at home in front of our crowd, which we think is a neat deal," Shurmur said.

It's not just a neat deal. It's the part of the deal that makes the Las Vegas oddsmakers look at the game and say the Eagles should win it. If they were playing in New Orleans, the Eagles likely would be a touchdown underdog.

The Saints are 5-0 in home playoff games and celebrated a Super Bowl victory in Miami under the special quarterback-coach combination of Brees and Sean Payton. There's no denying they rank among the best pairings in NFL history, but put them in cold, unfamiliar places and they can be contained and beaten.

Since the 2006 season, the Saints are winless on the road in the playoffs, losing at Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco.

Brees' career started in San Diego, perhaps the greatest weather city in the world, and moved indoors to New Orleans after the 2005 season. In his 13 seasons, he has played 10 games with the temperature at 40 degrees or below and he is 3-7. In one of the wins - a 2004 victory at Cleveland - he threw only six passes. He has never beaten a team with a winning record when the temperature has been 40 degrees or below. The Saints are also just 3-5 in outdoor stadiums in December and January during the Payton-Brees era.

Their only cold-weather game this season came during Week 13 against the Seahawks. The temperature in New Orleans dipped into the 30s that week and the Saints practiced outside with the hope that it would help them against Seattle.

"Having that similar environment is helpful," Payton said that week. "Getting the crowd-noise work done is critical as well, because the communication and the ability to focus with all those other things going on is where you are challenged." 

The game-time temperature in Seattle was 41 degrees with a 37-degree windchill. The Saints suffered their most lopsided loss of the season, 34-7.

Crowd noise could be just as big a factor as the cold Saturday night. This is just the second playoff game at the Linc in the last seven years, and when the Saints are at home, they don't just thrive on the climate-controlled conditions, they also have a boisterous crowd that makes life difficult for the opposing offense.

You could have presented all those facts to Shurmur and the Eagles before they practiced Tuesday and they would have refused to acknowledge that they mean anything.

"You have to use more of a silent cadence if you don't use it at home," the Eagles offensive coordinator said. "Other than that, you get yourself ready to play. I'm sure there are a lot of guys on their team that grew up in the north. Growing up in the north, I know why all my relatives retired and moved to Florida. But for the most part, I don't get into that domed team-outdoor team [debate]."

Not saying anything doesn't make the facts any less real or relevant.


Cold Brees

The forecast for Saturday's Eagles-Saints game at Lincoln Financial Field is for temperatures in the low 30s with a 60 percent chance of rain and snow showers. Saints quarterback Drew Brees has not had a lot of success in the cold. Here's a look at Brees' career record when the temperature has been 40 degrees or below.

Date    Team   Opp.   Temp.    Result   Comp.-Att.   Yds.   TD-INT

         (Windchill)

12/15/02   SD   BUF   36 (27)   L 20-13   13-24   148   0-0

12/22/02   SD   KC   33 (26)   L 24-22   26-40   242   2-0

12/21/03   SD   PIT   36 (27)   L 40-24   16-26   198   1-2

11/28/04   SD   KC    35 (26)   W 34-31   28-37   378   2-0

12/19/04   SD   CLE   18 (-10)   W 21-0   4-6   85   1-0

1/21/07*   NO   CHI   28 (13)   L 39-14   27-49   354   2-1

12/30/07   NO   CHI   30 (24)   L 33-25   35-60   320   3-2

12/11/08   NO   CHI   28 (18)   L 27-24   24-43   232   2-2

12/6/09   NO   WAS   36 (29)   W 33-30   35-49   419   2-1

1/8/11**   NO   SEA   40 (35)   L 41-36   39-60   404   2-0

*NFC championship game; **NFC wild-card game

KEY FACTS: Record: 3-7, Average points per game: 24.6; Completion pct.: 64.3 (247 for 384); Total yards: 2,780; TDs: 17; INTs: 8; Passer rating: 88.9.

Source: NFLgsis.com - Bob Brookover


bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

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