By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS)— Timing can be everything in football. Especially when it comes to a precise, rhythmic offense like the New Orleans Saints have.
A slight tweak can break the metronome of huddle, Drew Brees’ signal count, his number of drop steps to pass and where Jimmy Graham is supposed to be. If the Eagles can mess that timing up, they have a good chance of beating the Saints when they meet 8 p.m. Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field in the wildcard round of the playoffs.
But there could be other factors involved, too. Outside dynamics that could foil the Saints, like weather, which Saints’ coach Sean Payton threw a few guffaws over when talking to the Philadelphia media this week, and crowd noise, which Eagles’ defensive coordinator Billy Davis feels favors the Eagles.
The Saints are 0-5 in road playoff games and though it spices the narrative that New Orleans is a “dome team” playing in the elements, there is some validity behind it.
Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly is a firm believer in science and human physiology. There’s a simple reason why he has the Eagles practicing in the cold conditions at the NovaCare Complex on the hard ground this week, eschewing the indoor practice facility: Because the Eagles will be playing in the cold, on that hard, frozen surface at Lincoln Financial Field.
Repetition in the cold braces the body for the cold.
“We’ve just been asked that question about 15 times,” said Payton disdainfully, in response to whether or not the expected frigid conditions Saturday night will be a factor. “We have new travel warm-ups suits. They’re a little warmer. They actually look a little nicer. We ditched the old ones. After the sweat suits, we’re changing the color of the Gatorade. We’re changing up the snack for the night before. I think those are big changes to dealing with the weather, and especially with the wind.”
So be it.
The fact is, dome teams play a different game than outdoor teams in the Northeast. Freezing temperatures tighten muscles. Slamming on a hardened, frozen surface is like being tackled on concrete. It alters the way a game is played, which the Eagles adjusted to in the snow globe game against Detroit.
The Saints are practicing in a controlled environment, under temperatures in the 60s. Stepping out into that Artic air at the Linc Saturday night will be like a slap to their senses.
Noise will also be a key competent and definitely involve the frothy thong that will fill the Linc.
Davis told WIP’s Howard Eskin and Marc Farzetta on Thursday morning that weather won’t be an advantage. Crowd noise will. The Saints are averaging almost twice as many points at home (34) than they do on the road (17.8). They were 8-0 at home and 3-5 on the road.
“On the road, your numbers are accurate, but I don’t think it has to do with the elements. I think it has to do with the crowd noise and the noise because they are a dome signal operation,” Davis told Eskin and Farzetta. “They are very verbal in how they communicate their personnel groupings and a lot of things they do.
“So the louder the crowd noise, that has been in the Seattle game, the Panther game, I see that as probably having more of an effect on how they operate as an offense than the actual weather does. So our crowd this weekend is going to play a big part when the [New Orleans] offense is on the field and really the louder we can be, I think that has just as much an effect on them than any of the weather. That might be the road issues they are having.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.