The Saints are the hottest team in football, but to keep streaking to the Super Bowl, they’ll need to win at least one and probably two games on the road, outdoors and with wind — and maybe even snow — playing a role.
And outdoors, Drew Brees and the Saints are perceived to be a much weaker team than they are in the comfy, climate-controlled confines of the New Orleans Superdome.
So we dove into the stats to look at Brees’ history outdoors. Here’s what we found:
This year, the Saints have been unstoppable at home, decent on the road, yet pedestrian outdoors. They’re 9-0 at the Superdome, outscoring their opponents by an average of 23 points per game, 5-3 on the road, outscoring their opponents by three points per, and 3-2 outdoors, outscoring five teams with a combined record of 39-41 (a number greatly skewed by Green Bay’s 15-1 record) by an average of only one point per game.
They’ve averaged 39 points in their 12 games in domes, with at least 42 in each of their last four. But they’ve averaged only 26 in their five games outdoors. Only 26.
Here’s a breakdown, looking specifically at Brees:
Home: 9-0 record, 73%, 32 TD, 6 INT, 343 YDS/GM, 9.0 YPA, 121 passer rating
Domes: 11-1 record, 74%, 40 TD, 8 INT, 341 YDS/GM, 8.9 YPA, 123 passer rating
Away: 5-3 record, 71%, 17 TD, 8 INT, 357 YDS/GM, 7.9 YPA, 101 passer rating
Outdoors: 3-2 record, 70%, 9 TD, 6 INT, 370 YDS/GM, 8.0 YPA, 96 passer rating
But that sample size isn’t exactly enough to draw conclusions on. Extending beyond this season, Brees had actually won 11 of his last 13 outdoor road games prior to 2011. Since joining the Saints in 2006, he has a 62-33 record (.653) overall and a 30-17 road record (.638). And in outdoor games, he’s 21-13 (.618).
So as you can see, Brees and the Saints have taken a step back in the open air on the road, especially recently. But it’s never been a giant one. If anything, their dominance at home has probably exaggerated their “struggles” outdoors.
Still, it has to scare Saints fans that they cut it close in games played outside, and it’s a bit of a concern that Brees has never won a road playoff game, losing both of them outdoors in Seattle and Chicago. In those games, Brees completed “just” 61 percent of his passes with “only” 7.0 yards per attempt and a passer rating of “only” 89.9.
It isn’t fair to say the Saints struggle anywhere, but it’s safe to say that Brees and Co. have been less productive outdoors. That’s par for the course among elite NFL teams, of course, because excluding games they played against each other, the eight remaining playoff teams were 22-5 in domes this season (with dome teams Houston and New Orleans the only teams to lose indoors).