The Eagles can relate. They dropped their first four games at the Linc this season, extending the overall home drought to 10 games, and were reminded regularly of their shortcomings. The streak hit double-digits on October 27 with a 15-7 loss to the Giants that dropped the Eagles to 3-5 on the year. Just as Sean Payton joked this week about changing up the Gatorade flavor to flip the mojo, Chip Kelly quipped that maybe he would put the team on a bus and drive them around for a half hour for home games to simulate the road experience.
Those days seem far away now. The streak was snapped with a 24-16 win over Washington in mid-November, and the Eagles went on to win four straight at the Linc to close out the regular season. Just like that they had regained homefield advantage, and in memorable fashion.
“Just the memories that you kind of think back and listen to [the fans], the ‘We want Dallas’ chants in the Chicago game or just how loud they were in the Detroit game in the snow,” said Kelly. “And there were a couple times that I don’t think we could see the crowd because of how hard it was snowing down there. But they have been unbelievable and I think it’s the fact that we got a chance to win the division and get to come and play a game back at home is huge for us and we are excited about playing at the Linc. We know it’s going to be rocking on Saturday.”
And it’s going to be cold. (Temperatures are expected to be in the 20’s.) That doesn’t bode particularly well for the Saints, as Chase Stuart of the New York Times writes.
The Saints have never won a road playoff game, and dome teams in general have a poor record in cold-weather games. In playoff games when the weather was 35 degrees or below, dome teams have won 3 of 25 games. The three exceptions: Minnesota in Green Bay in 2004, Atlanta in Green Bay in 2002 and Indianapolis in Kansas City in 1995.
Kelly was quick to point to the Eagles’ championship game against Tampa to show the danger of getting caught up in such numbers. And he’s right — the weather won’t win a game for you. But it can give you an assist.
“Obviously we don’t have a chance to practice in it,” said Brees when asked about prepping for cold-weather games. “It’s in the 50s and 60s here, not in the 20s. We’ve all played in that weather before, not on a consistent basis, but you just kind of make the preparations and prepare for it the best you can I guess just mentally.”
Brees hasn’t been the same QB when playing in the elements this season. The Saints overall have looked like a different team away from the Superdome. But the Eagles know first-hand how quickly fortunes can change.
“I know a lot has been said about [the weather] but playoff football is, we are going to get the absolute best from one of the top offenses in the league and it doesn’t matter if it’s snowing, how cold it is,” said Billy Davis. “This is a group of pros, Hall of Fame pros, Pro Bowlers. They are one of the top offenses in the league and we expect to get their absolute best no matter what the weather conditions because of the mental toughness that they have.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Sheil uses the All-22 to explain what’s happening when Nick Foles is holding onto the ball.
Earl Wolff says he’s ready, plus Kelly’s words before Eagles-Dallas in the latest Inside Voices.
Trent Cole will be going against a rookie tackles this week, and suggests the Saints give him some help.
LeSean McCoy thinks the Eagles are going into the postseason hot.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Saints have been starting slow on the road and are looking to turn that around. From ESPN’s Mike Triplett.
As if it’s not hard enough to win on the road already, the Saints have consistently cranked up the degree of difficulty by digging early holes in all those games. And now they’re facing a Philadelphia Eagles defense that has given up a lot of yards this year – but was tied for third in the NFL with 31 takeaways.
“We were a top-5 team in [fewest] turnovers this year offensively,” quarterback Drew Brees said of the Saints’ total of just 19 giveaways all season. “[But] I definitely say there is something with momentum on the road, especially when you are in a hostile environment. Don’t give them a reason to get excited. Don’t give their fans a reason to stand up and get crazy. Anytime you can just control the game, certainly you can score points and get a lead, that’s great. But in a lot of cases, you kind of weather the storm so to speak and you get rolling.
Reuben Frank on just how good the Payton/Brees duo has been.
Payton, who got his NFL start coaching QBs Ty Detmer, Bobby Hoying and Rodney Peete under Ray Rhodes with the Eagles in 1997 , brought Brees to the Saints six weeks after he became Saints head coach after the 2005 season.In the eight years since, no offense in NFL history has done what the Saints have done.
Brees has had four 5,000-yard seasons. Every other quarterback in NFL history combined has had four (Dan Marino, Matt Stafford, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady). Since he began working with Payton, Brees has led the NFL in passing yards four times, touchdowns four times, yards per game four times and completion percentage three times.
We’ll roll out our predictions for Eagles-Saints.