With Sunday’s trouncing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints established their ability to dominate at home this season. That gives them a perfect 8-0 record in the Dome. But the Saints will have to travel to Philadelphia Saturday to battle the Eagles in the wildcard round of the NFL playoffs. Away. Where, statistically, they don’t play nearly as well.
It’s no secret that this predicament results from the Saints’ struggles on the road this year. Every loyal Who Dat has experienced both the joy of trouncing top tier teams like the Panthers and 49ers in the Dome and the heart-break of losing close away games to the Patriots and Panthers. And their utterly lackluster on-the-road efforts against the Jets, Seahawks and Rams left everyone wondering how our team could be so frustratingly inconsistent.
How ironic that a New Orleans team would have such trouble with roadies when our residents embrace the concept so whole-heartedly.
Yes, it would have been preferable to secure Dome field advantage and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Sadly, our arch rivals the Falcons found a way to destroy that hope, despite their train wreck of a season. So instead of augmenting our black and gold accessories collection for the next battle in the Dome, we find ourselves checking weather forecasts in Philadelphia for Saturday night (partly cloudy with a low of 25 degrees).
We also have to listen to the endless articles that focus on the Saints’ woeful road record this season (3-5), as well as the team’s equally discouraging all-time road playoff record (0-5). The national media cites these struggles as black and gold kryptonite.
However, in the city of voodoo and spirits (both kinds), Saints fans are long on faith in miracles and short on faith in numbers. As British statesman George Canning observed, “I can prove anything by statistics except the truth.” So let me use numbers and facts to rebut the pundits.
The real source of the Saints’ problems on the road was revealed in a recent article featured on the Bleacher Report. In it, Saints receiver Robert Meachem pointed out that the team went 7-1 on the road in 2009 — and on every single away trip, players ate Popeye’s fried chicken on the team plane. It all makes sense now. The Saints need to ensure that they enjoy a generous helping of Popeye’s chicken on the flight to Philly.
Also in 2009, the Saints went 13-0 before losing their last three games to finish the season. A favorite statistic quoted endlessly by the experts that year was that no team had lost its last three games of the regular season and then gone on to win the Super Bowl. Well, the Saints proved that wrong, taking home the Lombardi trophy after supposedly stumbling at the end of season. There was also the often-quoted fact that no team had won the Super Bowl as a number six seed until the Steelers did just that in 2005. Then the Packers did it again in 2010.
So instead of quoting statistics to posit negative results, I prefer to look at the facts that present a more positive outlook for our chances this weekend:
Ultimately, the fact that we haven’t won a road playoff game in franchise history is a record that is made to be broken.
But just in case, I will be heading to Popeye’s to load up on fried chicken prior to Saturday night’s kickoff.
New Orleans native Megan Peck writes about the agony and the ecstasy of being a sports fan in the Big Easy.