Wake-Up Call: It’s Good to Be Home

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The Saints are 1-5 in their last six road games, as you may have heard. They certainly have. Drew Brees and company have been bombarded with questions about the slump all week.

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.

COMING UP

We'll roll out our predictions for Eagles-Saints.

  • cheapmeat

    Also from that Chase Stuart article. Love an outsider’s take on the Eagles D that actually looks ‘into’ the numbers.

    “The Eagles finished the regular season ranking 29th in yards allowed.
    Only four teams have won the Super Bowl when ranked outside the top 20
    in that statistic: the 2001 Patriots (24th), the 2006 Colts (21st), the
    2009 Saints (25th) and the 2011 Giants (27th). Although no team with a
    bottom-five defense has won the Super Bowl, two of the last four teams
    to win the title had defenses that ranked in the bottom eight. So, what
    gives?

    Yards allowed is not a great way to measure a defense, and the Eagles’
    defense is not as bad as that statistic would indicate. Philadelphia
    faced 670 pass attempts this season, 20 more than any other team in
    N.F.L. history (a record previously held by the 1995 Falcons). Pass
    attempts gain more yards than rush attempts, so a team that faces a
    record number of pass plays is going to allow a lot of yards. The
    Houston Texans saw just 484 pass attempts this year and ranked seventh
    in yards allowed — and posted the worst record in the N.F.L.
    Philadelphia’s pass defense is not good by any means, but the more
    important statistic is that the team ranked 22nd in net yards per pass
    allowed. The Eagles’ defense was also 12th best in red zone touchdown
    percentage and fourth best in yards per carry allowed, and it forced the
    third most turnovers in the league. The defense is not going to carry
    the team to the Super Bowl, but it is not a bottom-five unit, either.”

    • Media Mike

      I disagree, in part, about how yards allowed in not a great way to measure a defense. The 1991 Eagles had the greatest defense in the history of the concept of defending anything. The 16 game yardage allowed totals were so ungodly low, that every Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Chicago, or any other fan should be forced to kill themselves on the spot if they don’t instantly acknowledge the inferiority of any D ever put on the field by their franchises when discussing them in relation to the 91 Eagles D.

      • cheapmeat

        Sure, but my point is that it’s nice to see our D getting some credit from someone that’s not watching every game as a fan.

        Referencing a defense from 13 years ago is like reminiscing about girls from college. It was an epic time, but its over and we’re currently married to sconces…

        • Media Mike

          I’m totally down with your main point and enjoyed reading it, I just felt the need to make sure that at all times the 91 Eagle D is given G.O.A.T. status.

        • Stephen Stempo

          23 years ago…..lol we’re getting old

      • Stephen Stempo

        It’s not as if it’s useless it’s just not the most important obviously great defenses tend to give up fewer yards. BUT the point is that there are a lot of mitigating circumstances for that. Points, yards per play,turnovers and red zone to me are more important.

      • Maggie

        Did they win?

    • Media Mike

      I like the general analysis here and how it leads to an Eagles victory on Saturday night!

    • cliff henny

      hope stuart likes writing for nytimes. reporter that takes 10 mins to digest facts has no business writing at espn or 99% of the other national sport media outlets.

  • anthony barnes

    We got to go out there and play our best football and the crowed got to be loud and in to it that is going to make the eagles play hard and I thing that goin to win the game for us don’t matter if tthey start off bad keep on being loud and keep showing them support

  • Will

    Billy D’s Defense was clutch last time out against Dallas…The Eagles have another real test in the Saints. The Eagles are 7-1 in the last 8 games. Winning is contagious and I like our chances at home in the Linc….Great game for the 12th man to be Loud and Proud and screw with Brees’s audibles …Defense, Defense, Defense should be the chant in this one…Shady,Shady,Shady…was the chant at the Detriot game…I expect McCoy is going to be the difference maker in this one…

  • GEAGLE

    One more day….sigh….ATleast their is a ton of snow to welcome the saints off of Their plane

    • Will

      LMAO…let it snow let it snow let it snow…

    • cliff henny

      can i assume someone will be there to throw snowballs at anything Saint related?

      • GEAGLE

        fans are crazed here…there is all day pep rallies…some fans will surely screw with the saints bus…

        • cliff henny

          i mean to point catholic priests better wear street clothes. think st peter will give you a pass if you say ‘it was eagles vs saints playoff weekend’.

  • GEAGLE

    I have been rather humble all week about this match up….time to get hype! BOOTS to ASSES!!!

    • G_WallyHunter

      Was gonna say eh, where the hell you been

      I’m looking forward to Brees little hands dropping that cold ball, and his little 6 foot frame having trouble back there on the tundra.

      Eagles secondary shows up and we have a great chance at it, if they let Brees do what Orton did last week, then we’re in for trouble.
      That’s the key matchup I think, especially if Eags pull out to a 2 or 3 score lead, things will get interesting.. can they hold it

      • Will

        Actually Brees has large hands…on a short body….10 1/4 inches…

        • knighn

          That’s only in a dome or warm weather. In cold weather, Brees’ hands shrink down to something like 5 or 6 inches.

  • Rick H

    If it turns out on Saturday night to be a frozen slow field I believe that it will really help the Eagles. Both teams are fast and talented offensively but I do not see their receivers fairing very well in those cold conditions. You just can’t replicate “that” practicing in New Orleans. Bottom line to me anyway is playing with an early lead then running directly at them much like the fourth quarter versus the Lions.
    I also believe our defense will have advantage over their defense for the very same reasons. It has a serious chance to be the deciding factor. If the field conditions are too good and they make the field “too playable” (if you will) I believe that helps N.O.. I hope the Eagles field crew does the bare minimum when getting the field ready!

    • Will

      Let the 8 inches of snow that fell last night stay on the field lol….

      • pkatz

        Are they allowed to do that? During the Lions game I think the announcers said the grounds crew had the option to clear the field, but only if they could clear the *entire* field, which is why they left it.

        • Will

          Being sarcastic…no unless it snows Saturday Night…

  • Beastmode

    Phil Sheridans best column in awhile on Chip, with bonus Winston Wolf mention:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/nfceast/post/_/id/60307/chip-kelly-in-a-hurry-for-first-playoff-win

    • Will

      Nice read thanks for sharing that…

    • EaglefaninAZ

      Good read. It got me thinking about something in particular. I think we can safely call Kelly a players coach. The guys have bought in. The town is falling in love with him (Super Bowl talk?), and he’s so far shown to be a fans coach, and I’m sure the front office is thrilled so far. That’s a hell of a start for year one.

      • BlindChow

        I remember the stories before the season questioning how professional athletes would take to Kelly’s approach, which so far had only worked on college kids. But the approach they described was based on Kelly answering “Why” questions with detailed, reasoned answers. It seems like that’s EXACTLY how you’d want a coach to deal with professional adults; maybe his big innovation was treating his college players as adults as well.

    • nicksaenz1

      Winston Wolf reference and a Duran Duran reference. Maybe his best work yet as a writer.

    • FluxCapacitor

      First Sheridan article I can remember (ever) without some type of backhanded shot at the Eagles Organization. I wonder if he can do two of them…I’ll have to check the odds from Vegas on that one.

  • GumboGumbo

    Adam is that you in the picture?

  • Stephen Stempo

    Anyone else sick of hearing about Rob Ryan?

    • Dr Rick

      Who?

  • Explorer51

    Drew Brees is rightfully acknowledged as a great QB, a guaranteed HOFer. But if his success came under Sean Payton (surrounded by lots of offensive talent), why isn’t he considered a product of Payton’s “system”? He was a good, not great, QB in San Diego, 30-28 record, decent numbers but he really didn’t blossom until age 27 in his first year in NO. Compare that to Nick Foles, who many still think is successful only because of a strong offense minded coach, Chip Kelly’s system. Why the stark difference in judgement do you think?

    • theycallmerob

      Payton would do better to trade him for someone more mobile. I bet Vick would have had 6000 yards

    • BlindChow

      Part of it is the years of experience. Because Foles is in his first year (essentially) and failed to light it up last year the way he’s doing it now, there’s hesitancy to give him 100% of the credit.

      Also, Brees has shown incredible accuracy and uncanny decision-making ability; both of these traits are system-independent. That is, Sean Payton’s system isn’t going to make an inaccurate QB more accurate, or dumb QB less likely to throw ill-advised passes into double coverage.

      • EaglePete

        bingo, I do think the scheme and player both benefit though. There is no denying that some of these good offensive minds take the level of play up with their QBs but ya, the QB has to also have a top skill set also.

      • Explorer51

        Yes, Drew Brees is considered that now but if you look at his 4 yrs as a starter in San Diego, he was only OK in terms of accuracy (62.1 completion % & 3.0 pass interception %); as an aside, he was actually replaced, due to ineffectiveness, in his second year of starting by the immortal Doug Flutie. And though he was starting to improve his numbers in his second two yrs in SD, he only “exploded” under Sean Payton.

        I agree that every QB needs to show he can do it over several seasons before he can be considered elite but I also wonder why there is never an asterisk with Brees noting the difference in his success (and perception) from SD to NO. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is one of the top 4 QBs in the league now but that could be in large part because of Sean Payton.

  • EaglePete

    Im not really buying into the “cant play in cold” hype machine as much as some. I do think it helps if the ball is a bit frozen, tougher to throw/catch but they will still make their plays. Key for me is getting ahead early or off to a decent start at least, I dont want them getting a double digit lead at any point in that first half, that will spell trouble. Another negative is I think our defense can still be exposed esp to high powered O like the Saints. If they can stay ahead or within reach the first 3 qtrs I love our chances late in this game. They have to pressure Brees, if not we have to hope that the weather helps him play a bit more conservative for fear of making mistakes/turnovers. Any way to slow down their roll and have them questioning their confidence throughout esp being in away/hostile territory. Again, Im not really buying the stats on the cold or that our D is a 24 pt or less probability. Eagles offense better be ready to roll to stay in this one. Shady is the x factor.