Saints desperate to diagnose road issues
History repeated itself for the New Orleans Saints in dismal fashion Sunday inside the Edwards Jones Dome, as the St. Louis Rams dominated the Saints 27-16 in a game that should have punched New Orleans' playoff ticket.
Instead the Saints were schooled in all 3 phases. Critics of the Black and Gold now have more ammunition for concerns that, while this team is unstoppable inside the friendly confines of the New Orleans Superdome, they can't execute on the road.
Now, even players and coaches share that worry.
"I think it's obvious there's something about us on the road that has to be addressed and fixed," tackle Zach Strief said. "It's hard to say what it is, but there's something. We have to identify it, and we have to find it fast."
The facts aren't pretty for the Saints: all 4 losses of the season have come on the road: the New England Patriots, the New York Jets, the Seattle Seahawks and now the St. Louis Rams. The last two losses are back-to-back and both in double digits.
"Much has been written about how we play on the road versus how we play at home and you know what? That is where it is right now with this season," Coach Sean Payton said. "We come out here with a lot at stake having played an important game last week, and we can't line up and kick a field goal, we can't get the run stopped, we turned the ball over. We did everything we talked about not doing in order to get a road win."
Sunday, New Orleans was disconcerted from the start. Quarterback Drew Brees threw 2 interceptions on the team's first two possessions. He was sacked four times, twice by Rams defensive end Robert Quinn. Payton benched left tackle Charles Brown and slid Strief over in a desperate attempt to neutralize Quinn.
"I saw enough. Period. I mean, enough," Payton said.
But it wasn't just Brown, or the Saints offensive line, or even the Saints offense.
The Saints defense failed to get a sack. Backup Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens threw for two touchdowns and no interceptions, matching his best performance in seven games. Rams coach Jeff Fisher out-Paytoned Sean Payton with a successful onside kick in the first quarter.
"The record doesn't lie," Brees said. "We have to play better on the road. And we will."
The Saints need to figure out how to survive in hostile territory quickly. They're back on the road next Sunday in Charlotte, facing a Panthers team that wants vengeance for what happened a week ago in New Orleans. More importantly though, the Saints and Panthers once again share the same record:10-4. The winner of next week's crucial rematch earns control of the NFC South and controls their own playoff destiny.