Saints’ road struggles often linked to turnovers

Associated Press photo by TOM GANNAM -- St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, right, forces a fumble by Saints quarterback Drew Brees during the Saints' 27-16 loss Dec. 15 in St. Louis. Quinn recovered the fumble. Show caption
Associated Press photo by TOM GANNAM -- St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, right, forces a fumble by Saints quarterback Drew Brees during the Saints' 27-16 loss Dec. 15 in St. Louis. Quinn recovered the fumble.

Saints’ well-documented road struggles often tied to uncharacteristic turnovers

Much has been said — and certainly will be said the rest of this week — about the New Orleans Saints’ road woes going into Saturday night’s playoff game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

After crafting the NFL’s best road record from 2009 through their first two road games of this season at 23-11, the Saints went off the track in dropping five of their last six games away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Part of the reason for their 1-5 mark since winning at Tampa Bay in September and Chicago in early October is giveaways.

While only three teams had fewer turnovers than the Saints, with 19 in 16 games, 10 of them came in road losses to New England, the New York Jets, Seattle, St. Louis and Carolina.

Those 10 turnovers were converted into 41 points, which is big since they lost those games by a combined 51 points — making ball security in a win-or-go-home playoff game more crucial. Six of the 10 turnovers came in the first half.

“If you can score points and get a lead, that’s great,” Drew Brees said. “One of our things is we really haven’t started fast on the road. That’s something certainly we can improve on, something we are focusing on.

“I definitely say there’s something with momentum on the road, especially when you’re in a hostile environment,” he said. “Don’t give them a reason to get excited … don’t give their fans a reason to stand up and get crazy.”

Getting ready

As they normally do for a road game during the regular season, the Saints worked on their outdoor grass fields Wednesday to prepare for an outdoor game on the natural turf at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Saints worked on the field for the first time since clinching their playoff spot with Sunday’s win against the Tampa Bay Bucs.

“We got a lot of good work outside on the grass,” coach Sean Payton said. “We did some of the teaching progression to start off in the walkthroughs and then moved it outside. I thought today was pretty smooth.”

It’s cold up there

The Saints are also preparing for the wintry blast that the Philadelphia and most of the East Coast is expecting Thursday.

As of Wednesday night, the forecast called for 3 to 5 inches of snowfall for Thursday and another inch Friday when a high temperature of 19 is expected.

On Saturday, the high will be 32 with temperatures dropping to the mid- to upper-20s by game’s end.

“We’ve played in cold weather before, we’ll get used to it,” said Payton, whose team is 2-7 when the temperature is 40 or below at kickoff. “Our guys will be able to adapt to it. We have a lot of players who have played in cold climates in college.”

Catching on

The Saints are usually more concerned about wind, which could play havoc with their second-ranked passing game and Brees’ ability to get the ball to his targets.

That’s important because the Saints had four players with 70 or more receptions this season, which is the first time that’s happened in NFL history.

Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham had 86 receptions, while running back Pierre Thomas had a career-high 77 catches. Wide receiver Marques Colston (75) and running back Darren Sproles (71) rounded out the group.

They accounted for 309 of Brees’ 446 completions and 3,275 of the team’s 5,162 gross passing yards.

Practice report

The only Saints who did not participate in practice Wednesday were running back Pierre Thomas (chest) and safety Rafael Bush (ankle).

Payton usually doesn’t discuss injuries, which made it unclear if Bush, who returned last Sunday after missing three games, suffered a setback with his high-ankle sprain or was just resting it.

For the Eagles, guard Julian Vandervelde (back) and safety Earl Wolff (knee) did not practice.

Roster move

The Saints waived safety Eric Frampton, who was signed Dec. 18, and promoted linebacker Kyle Knox from the practice squad.

They also signed defensive back Eddie Whitley to the practice squad to take the spot vacated by Knox.

Brees, Stills nominated

Brees is a candidate for the FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week award and Stills is up for the Pepsi Next NFL Rookie of the Week honor.

Fans can vote for both atNFL.com until Friday morning.