METAIRIE — The more you talk about playing in the thin air of Mile High Stadium, the worse it’s going to be.
At least that’s the view of Saints’ linebacker Scott Shanle about the team’s first trip to Denver in four years coming up Sunday.
“To me, it’s more mental than anything else,” he said.
“I never really noticed the difference the last time we played there,
“Sometimes, you’re better off not being told about it. If too much is made of it, guys let that creep in.”
Still, as to help the players adjust from going below sea level to 5,280 feet above the team probably will leave on Friday, a day early, and have a walk through on Saturday, something they don’t always do for road games.
“The theory is if you are going to take a team to Denver, take them two days in advance to adjust,” interim coach Joe Vitt said.
“There are a lot of excuses you can find to lose a game, altitude being one of them.
“We are going to need our best performance this week to beat a good football team.”
Been there, done that
Twelve members of this year’s Saints team played in that 2008 game in Denver, won by the Broncos, 34-32, when Martin Gramaticia missed a 42-yard field goal attempt in the final minute.
But several other team members have played more frequently in Denver, including quarterback Drew Brees, who was 0-3 as a starter with San Diego in games there in 2002, 2004 and 2005 (He was inactive in 2001 and active but did not play in 2003).
Darren Sproles played in Denver five times, including his final game with the Chargers in 2010.
Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley played with the Broncos last year.
“You do have to adjust because the air is thinner,” Shanle said. “But after a while, your adrenaline kicks in and you forget about it.
“I’m sure the coaches will do a great job of having us ready.”
Keep on running
Although the Saints committed somewhat more to the run Sunday, 26 attempts, one shy of the season high, the result was only 81 yards, 3.1 per carry, not up to the 3.9 norm for the first five games.
It was another confounding day for 2011 first-round draft pick Mark Ingram.
He netted only five yards on four carries in the first half, but in the second, but in the third quarter ripped off a 10-yard gain with the aid of Bucs’ defensive tackle Gary Gibson slipping and actually falling offsides before the snap and then following the block of Ben Grubbs for a 3 yards one third-and-one from 29 in the closing minutes.
However, when the Saints faced third-and-three on the next series, the call instead was a pitch to Sproles, who was stopped after a one-yard gain.
“We had run that play to the left side earlier in the game and had a good gain,” former interim coach Aaron Kromer said. “The thing that happened is our receiver (Lance Moore) is on the outside and was not ready for the ball to be snapped.
“He was checking to see if he was on the line or off the line, so when the ball was snapped, he stood there and that’s why we didn’t get it. But obviously, the running game is not up to the standard we’re looking for.”
Kromer, who now reverts to offensive line coach and running game coordinator, added that timing appears to be the major problem.
Morstead: Can’t wait
One player definitely looking forward to his first visit to Mile High is punter Thomas Morstead.
Morstead, already the league leader in punting average (51.2) and net punting (44.9) after Sunday, is looking to pad his stats in he thin air of Denver.
“I’ve never been there, but I hear the ball is supposed to go further,” he said. “So I’m excited to see what it’s all about.”
One thing Morstead is hoping for is that the temperature is at least no lower than the predicted 38.
“Guys who are in eight or 10 plays in a row don’t have any problem staying warm,” he said. “All I do is stand around.
“I hope they have a heated bench.”
Bring him on
Count defensive end Cameron Jordan among those happy to be getting the opportunity to play against Payton Manning, since Manning was on injured reserve last season and thus didn’t play when the Saints met Indianapolis.
“I like it,” Jordan said. “I’ve never gotten the chance to go against him.
“So I’m definitely excited for this game.”
Could be chilly
One thing the players will have to adjust to is the prospect of cold weather, or least colder than they’re used to.
The forecast for Sunday night is clear with a temperature of 38 degrees, not unusual for late October Denver.
At least that’s better than Friday night when it’s supposed to be 25 with snow.
“That’s not too bad,” Shanle said. “But anybody who plays in the South or in a domed stadium is lying if he says cold weather doesn’t bother him.”
But wide receiver Joe Morgan said he’s looking forward to the change in temperatures.
“I’m from Ohio (Canton),” he said. “I miss the snow.”
Morgan: No biggie
It was naturally among SportsCenter’s Plays of the Day and AOL Sports called it “spectacular.”
But wide receiver Morgan professed not to have watched any replays of his 48-yard touchdown reception which saw catch the ball at the 10, avoid the tackle of Mark Barron, regain his balance and then flip Eric Wright over his head before going into the end zone.
“I don’t watch SportsCenter,” Morgan said. “Those guys can be your friend one day and your enemy the next.
“But it’s still pretty cool when everybody sees it.”
Morgan’s TD came in the second quarter, but in the third, he suffered a chest injury and was taken to a Tampa hospital as a precautionary measure. He was able to make the team plane back to New Orleans, although he did delay the flight a bit.
Monday, Morgan said he was still feeling a little sore, but still wasn’t sure what the problem was — or if it will recur.
“They just want to see what happens this week,” he said. “I’ll do whatever the doctor says, but right now, my determination is to play.”