WHAT WE LEARNED
1 There’s obviously no place like the ’Dome. But we knew that already. For whatever reasons — the controlled climate, the crowd noise, the quality of the hotel beds on Saturday night — the Saints are a much better team, especially offensively. They wound up averaging 34.0 points at home this season compared to 15.6 on the road. But that doesn’t matter any more because the next time this team plays a game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome it will be a 2014 preseason game. The players to man on Sunday were saying that it doesn’t matter when you get to the playoffs and the adversity of the road is something that every team has to contend with, adding that three of the past four Super Bowl winners started out as wild cards. That may be. But whether the road problems of this team are in their heads won’t be answered until next weekend.
2 Lance Moore. It’s been a quite year for the first down specialist came into the game with only one touchdown reception and 33 catches overall, his lowest total for a season in which he has played a majority of the games since 2007 — his first full year in the league. But on Sunday, Moore opened the game with a 12-yard gainer that got things off to a good start and ended that first possession by getting a step on Dashon Goldson for a 48-yard TD, his longest reception of the season. He finished with four catches for 73 yards, all in the first half. Moore missed three games this season, including the loss at New England, when one catch by him late in the game would have made the difference. Lots of things have to fall into place for the Saints to win a road playoff game, but getting the type of clutch catches Moore regularly comes up with is one of them.
3 There’s no such thing as a preordained victory in the NFL. That’s what makes the league so competitive. Even teams with playoff berths on the line have been known to blow them with subpar performances against ones who will be packing away their gear on Monday (See the Miami Dolphins). But the Saints, knowing their chance for a first-round bye had been narrowly erased by Atlanta’s one-point loss to Carolina, put on a dominating performance to make sure there’s at least one more game to play this season. Drew Brees was particularly sharp, going 24 of 31 for 381 yards and four touchdowns against a team that was allowing just 229.1 passing yards per game coming in. Will Sunday’s offensive effectiveness, combined with what we’ve come to expect from the defense somehow translate to the franchise’s first road playoff victory next week? Who knows? But the Saints are one of 12 teams still playing while 18 are done. It’s sure better to be in that first number than the second.
Advocate staff report