METAIRIE, La. – Much has been made of the off-the-field tweaks to the New Orleans Saints’ routine this week. But when it comes to actual on-the-field changes the Saints would like to make in their road performances, getting off to a faster start might be the No. 1 priority.
The Saints have not scored a touchdown on their opening possession in any road game this year. And in each of their past four road losses, they’ve had at least one first-half turnover that led to a touchdown for the other team.
The Saints had a total of six first-half turnovers in those four games (two interceptions at the New York Jets, a sack-fumble at Seattle, two interceptions on their first two drives at St. Louis and an interception at Carolina).
And turning back the clock a little further, the Saints had four first-half turnovers in their last playoff game – a 36-32 loss at San Francisco two years ago.
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.
“I think one of our things is we really haven’t started fast on the road, and that is something certainly we can improve on, something we are focusing on and that can be a big part of our success, too.”
Up until last week, those slow starts had become a surprising problem for the Saints’ offense both home and away this season.
They went 11 consecutive games without scoring a touchdown on their opening possession until Brees hit Lance Moore with a 41-yard touchdown pass to open their 42-17 rout over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17.
That performance against the Buccaneers gives the Saints hope, because it had been a big point of emphasis heading into the game. Now they would love to start off the same way on the road Saturday night at Philly.