The New Orleans Saints are going to hear about their 0-4 road record in the playoffs. The record is misleading, but not necessarily irrelevant heading into their divisional-round game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park.
A look back through those four defeats can provide some context:
2010: lost at Seattle, 41-36, in the divisional round. The Seahawks were easy to underestimate as a 7-9 division winner. Matt Hasselbeck and Marshawn Lynch turned in memorable performances. Drew Brees passed for 404 yards, but only two scoring passes. Seattle overcame a 17-7 deficit. The Saints ran out of running backs and became one-dimensional.
2006: lost at Chicago, 39-14, in the NFC title game. Brees passed for 354 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears' Rex Grossman completed only 11 of 26 passes for 144 yards, but Chicago suffered no turnovers. The Bears rushed 46 times for 196 yards and three touchdowns. This matchup resembles the Saints-49ers matchup in some ways. Those Bears were 13-3. They were stronger on defense and special teams than on offense. The current 49ers have done a much better job avoiding turnovers. Grossman had 20 picks in 2006, whereas Alex Smith has only five this season.
2000: lost at Minnesota, 34-16, in the divisional round. Those Vikings had Randy Moss (121 yards) and Cris Carter (120 yards) catching passes from a pre-injury Daunte Culpepper (302 yards). Jim Haslett was coaching the Saints. Aaron Brooks was their quarterback. Totally irrelevant to the matchup this week.
1990: lost at Chicago, 16-6, in the wild-card round. This one also lacks relevance unless the Saints bring John Fourcade out of retirement to replace Brees. Fourcade completed 5 of 18 passes for 79 yards as the Saints' quarterback. Jim Harbaugh was the Bears' primary starting quarterback that season, but he was hurt. Mike Tomczak started this game in his place.
The 0-4 road record sounds bad, and it is, but only two of those defeats came with Brees and coach Sean Payton on the New Orleans payroll. The Saints were much better offensively in 2011 than they were last season or in 2006. What will that mean Saturday?