If the New Orleans Saints are to clinch a playoff berth this
weekend on their own, they must improve their recent play on the
The Saints hope to accomplish both Sunday while trying to send
the St. Louis Rams to a seventh consecutive losing season with a
third straight defeat.
Various scenarios that would involve help from other teams can
put New Orleans (10-3) in the playoffs with a loss, but it can
simply secure a berth with a victory Sunday.
The Saints have some renewed confidence after they rebounded
from a 34-7 loss at Seattle on Dec. 2 with a 31-13 victory last
Sunday over Carolina. With the win, New Orleans improved to 7-0 at
home and took a one-game lead over the Panthers in the NFC
While the Saints have the inside track on the division title and
a first-round bye, they play the next two on the road – including a
rematch with Carolina – before concluding the regular season by
hosting Tampa Bay.
“We’d like to be able to take the show on the road, but
definitely playing in the dome is an advantage,” center Brian de la
Puente said. “We know that. Teams know that coming (to New Orleans
is) a difficult place to play. There’s unique things that present
themselves when you’re on the road and that’s part of it.”
The Saints average 32.9 points and allow 15.4 per game at home
but are scoring 18.8 and giving up 22.5 per contest while going 3-3
on the road.
Drew Brees, who became the fifth quarterback to eclipse 50,000
career passing yards last Sunday, has thrown 23 of his 33
touchdowns while posting a 122.5 passer rating at home. On the
road, he’s thrown five of his eight interceptions and has an 87.7
Though Rob Ryan’s defense ranks sixth overall at 313.6 yards per
game, its three worst yardage and point totals have come away from
home. New Orleans has dropped three of the last four on the road
while allowing its opponent to score first in each contest.
“It’s not so much about being on the road that really causes
problems,” safety Roman Harper said. “It’s the fact that when we
don’t have success early, how guys respond and things like
“When we come out and we play fast, we get off to good starts
offensively, defensively, that’s when we’re at our best. We’ve got
try to find a way, no matter where we’re at location-wise, to come
out of the locker room and start fast.”
Though the Saints’ most recent road victory came at another
indoor venue, 17-13 at Atlanta on Nov. 21, St. Louis was
responsible for one of their three losses in 2011 with a 31-21
victory at the Edward Jones Dome when the teams last met.
Brees threw for 269 yards with a TD and two INTs in that
contest. He’s been picked off twice in each of his five career
games against the Rams.
Tight end Jimmy Graham recorded five of his league-leading 14
TDs in the last three contests but was held to four receptions for
39 yards and no scores versus St. Louis in 2011.
The Rams (5-8) improved to 3-3 at home after they ran for a
season-high 258 yards during a 42-21 victory over Chicago on Nov.
24. Since, they’ve been outscored 53-23 in road losses to San
Francisco and Arizona that eliminated them from playoff contention
and secured a 10th straight season without a winning record.
“We are going to get better,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “Our focus
is going (to be) on the Saints. That is what we are going to
With two first-round draft picks next year – including a
Redskins pick that is currently second overall – the Rams have
reason to be excited about next season but will focus on the
“We have to finish strong,” said defensive end Robert Quinn, who
has recorded eight of his NFC-leading 13.0 sacks at home. “You
don’t want to look at the next season, you want to finish strong
and take it one game at a time.”
Kellen Clemens, who has thrown one TD and three INTs in the last
two games, was sacked a season-high four times in last Sunday’s
30-10 loss to the Cardinals. He’s been sacked 18 times since
replacing the injured Sam Bradford and now faces a New Orleans
defense that leads the NFC with 43 sacks.
Defensive end Cameron Jordan and outside linebacker Junior
Galette combined for all five sacks of Cam Newton last week.
St. Louis rookie Zac Stacy averaged 86.5 rushing yards in his
previous eight games before he was held to 25 on 14 carries against
It’s uncertain if fellow rookie Tavon Austin will play after he
injured his ankle on a 56-yard run versus Arizona.