So far this season, the Saints “elite” offense has been putting up points in bunches – within the friendly confines of the Superdome. The time has come for the Saints to light up the scoreboard on the road.
If you are a Saints fan, chances are you’ve heard the argument that the Saints are a different team away from the Superdome.
For whatever reason, the well-oiled offensive machine “falls flat” in the open air. I am beyond tired of this storyline.
I am so sick and tired of all the pundits questioning the Saints offense on the road, of all the fantasy gurus telling fans that they should bench quarterback Drew Brees whenever the Saints happen to play away from the Superdome, which happens to be HALF of their schedule.
Mostly, I’m tired of it because I know they are right, and the entire week leading up to a road game I am filled with a feeling of angst.
Looking at just this season, the Saints road numbers thus far support this narrative, especially when it comes to the passing game.
Drew Brees is simply a different player when forced to contend with the open air.
Oct 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) points out a San Diego Chargers defender before the snap during the second half at Qualcomm Stadium. New Orleans won 35-34. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s crowd noise, maybe it’s timing, or maybe it’s just bad luck. Considering the fact that he started his career in San Diego, in an open air stadium, his recent struggles seem odd to say the least.
In his three home games this season, Brees has thrown for at least 375 yards in each and boasts 11 touchdowns against just two interceptions.
But in two road games, Brees has thrown for under 265 yards twice, and has just three touchdowns against two interceptions.
This phenomenon affects more than just the quarterback.
All of Brandin Cooks touchdowns this year have come on the “fast track” that is the Superdome’s artificial turf, and both of his games where he eclipsed 100 yards receiving.
After last week’s win over the Panthers, the Saints elite offense is averaging over 35 points per game at home, as compared to just 24 on the road.
Oct 16, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) catches a touchdown over Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Shaq Green-Thompson (54) during the fourth quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Panthers 41-38. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
There’s no question that for the Saints, the strength of the their team is the offense.
While the defense is improving, and players are getting healthier each week, any potential run at the playoffs will mostly come as a result of the right arm of Drew Brees and the rest of the Saints offense.
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That plan will not work if they only get it done for half of the games on their regular season schedule.
One thing that would help the Saints offense on the road is running the football more effectively.
Mark Ingram has yet to gain 100 yards in a contest this year. While it would be nice if this were to happen for the first time on Sunday, make no mistake, it’s on Brees and his receiving corps to fire this thing up.
If Brandin Cooks wants to make a name for himself as a truly elite receiver, he needs to stop disappearing for complete games at a time, and he needs to begin asserting him dominance on the road.
He will have a tough task beginning with Chiefs star cornerback Marcus Peters, who currently leads the NFL in interceptions.
Sep 25, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters (22) intercepts a pass during the second half against the New York Jets at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 24-3. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas City opened this week as a touchdown favorite over the Saints. According to the analytics at FiveThirtyEight, the Chiefs have an 80% chance to win this game.
Giving any team that has to play against Drew Brees an 80% chance to win is just plain disrespectful, especially considering all the close games the Saints have been a part of.
If I’m annoyed by this storyline, fans can bet their last cent that the hyper-competitive Drew Brees and Sean Payton are beyond tired of it.
While playing at Arrowhead offers a lot of challenges, it also offers a golden opportunity for the Saints to begin to change the narrative, starting with the strength of their team.