The New Orleans Saints might be getting somewhat of a break because of the bitterly cold weather headed to south Louisiana the first three days of this week. It’ll be colder here Tuesday and Wednesday than in Seattle, where the Saints will venture for the NFC divisional playoff game Saturday against the Seahawks.
So the Saints will be able to work outside in brisk, breezy conditions more normal for the Pacific Northwest. In fact, the game-time temperature for the Seattle contest is forecast to be a relatively mild 41 degrees, balmy considering the Saints played in Philadelphia with temperatures in the middle 20s Saturday in their 26-24 NFC wild-card playoff victory.
The bad news is, at least right now, the chance of rain for the game Saturday is pegged at 100 percent.
But of more concern to the Saints (12-5) than the weather is the opponent. The top-seeded Seahawks (13-3) are a handful on the road and even tougher at home. The Saints, which earned their first-ever road playoff victory Saturday, are well aware of this after playing dreadfully in a 34-7 defeat against the Seahawks on the road Dec. 2.
“This (Seattle) is a team that has been dominant all season,’’ Saints coach Sean Payton said. “They’re the No. 1 seed. They’re unbelievably talented defensively. Offensively they’re coached very well. They’re on a roll.”
The Saints will need improvement in all phases against the Seahawks, Payton said. But perhaps the most impressive part of the victory against the Eagles was the emergence of the Saints’ running game.
Led by running back Mark Ingram, the Saints rushed for 185 yards on 36 attempts, an impressive 5.1-yard average against a team that allowed only an average of 104.4 yards a game and 3.8 yards a carry in the regular season. And consider the Saints did it without Pierre Thomas, out with a chest injury.
The Saints didn’t do anything well against Seattle last month and managed only 44 rushing yards on 17 carries, a 2.6-yard average. Of course, the running game got jettisoned because the Saints got behind so quickly, 17-0.
With expected wet conditions Saturday, establishing the running game could be important for the Saints. Ingram, who rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown, said it was certainly key against the Eagles.
Payton said the Saints ran so well because it won the battle at the line of scrimmage. The defense also won that battle, he said.
“I thought we controlled both lines of scrimmage,’’ Payton said. “When you do that, you have a good chance of winning.”
Saints tight end Benjamin Watson said the team has to put the loss at Seattle behind it but also has to learn from it.
“I think there are parts of it that will help us and parts of it that we want to forget,’’ he said. “Obviously, the feeling of fighting off and being in the hole like we were and really never being in the game. We can look at that and say that won’t happen again.
“When it comes down to it, it is all about execution. Definitely with these two teams, and I’ve only been in one game, but obviously with these two teams there is a history over the last few years with games and us not being able to win up there.”