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Saints Heated Over Cold-Weather Woes

Posted Jan 1, 2014

The holiday season is moving past us as the calendar rolls into January, but some holiday songs may still get caught in your head from time to time. There are a number of holiday hits that sing about "Jack Frost nipping at your nose," "the weather being frightful," and, of course, "baby, it’s cold outside."

The New Orleans Saints probably never want to hear any of those songs ever again.

Heading into Saturday night’s Wild Card matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, the narrative of the “there’s no place like dome” New Orleans Saints traveling into the frigid grounds of Lincoln Financial Field has been a popular storyline.

It’s hard to argue with the facts. The Saints were undefeated at home this season, but lost five of their eight games on the road. In their franchise history, they have never won a road playoff game, going 0-5. Also, teams that rely on passing the football typically run into speed bumps when the weather gets colder. But don’t tell any of that to Sean Payton. The Saints head coach has been asked the question so many times that he’s now decided to have a little bit of fun with it.

“We’ve got new travel warm-up suits. They’re a little warmer and they actually look a little nicer too, so we ditched the old ones,” Payton joked during his conference call with Philadelphia media on Wednesday.

“After the sweat suits, the Gatorade color we are changing on gameday, and we’re changing up the snack the night before. I think those are big changes in regard to dealing with the weather and especially the wind.”

The weather forecast calls for 20-degree temperatures at kickoff. Quarterback Drew Brees acknowledges that some adjustments have to be made, but in the end it all still comes down to execution.

“You always take the elements into consideration,” Brees said on his conference call. “Is there wind? Is there moisture? How cold is it? Am I wearing sleeves or not wearing sleeves? There’s really not a lot that goes into it other than trying to keep your hands warm and get a good grip on the ball. That’s pretty much what it comes down to.

“Obviously we don’t have a chance to practice in it. It’s in the 50s and 60s here, not in the 20s. We’ve all played in that kind of weather before, not on a consistent basis, but you just kind of make the preparations. You try to prepare for it as best as you can, I guess just mentally, but once you’re there, hey listen, it’s football. It’s about execution. It’s about knowing your assignments and executing it. Whatever the conditions are, you manage that, whether it’s wind, rain, snow or whatever. I wouldn’t say that we’re going up there into a situation that we haven’t been in before.”

The Saints don’t seem to think that their lack of cold-weather game experience will be an issue on Saturday night, and for that matter, neither does head coach Chip Kelly. Speaking early this week, Kelly brought up an unpleasant memory for most Eagles fans. In the 2002 NFC Championship Game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to Veterans Stadium. They entered the game with a 1-21 all-time record in games under 40 degrees, but they found a way to get the best of the Eagles on that cold January afternoon, and later ended up winning the Super Bowl over the Oakland Raiders.

“Tampa Bay didn't win a game in cold weather until they came in here and did it, so we are not going to get really caught up in that one, I can tell you that,” Kelly said.

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis also downplayed the role of the weather in this weekend’s tilt, saying that no matter what the thermometer reads on Saturday night, the Eagles defense is still tasked with defending the fourth-ranked offense in the league, averaging 399.4 yards per game.

“I know a lot has been said about that but … we are going to get the absolute best from one of the top offenses in the league and it doesn't matter if it's snowing, how cold it is,” Davis said. “This is a group of pros, Hall of Fame pros, and Pro Bowlers.  They are one of the top offenses in the league and we expect to get their absolute best no matter what the weather conditions because of the mental toughness that they have.”

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