METAIRIE, La. – Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees were asked once again Wednesday about the New Orleans Saints' struggles on the road this year. And they were asked about the Saints' struggles at St. Louis, in particular, in both 2009 and 2011.
Both Payton and Brees stressed that neither trend is on their minds as they prepare to play on the road against the St. Louis Rams (5-8) on Sunday. They both said the Rams have their attention because of how well they've played at times this year with a young team -- especially at home.
"They've got a young roster, and yet you just have to put on the game tape and watch the Chicago game or watch the Indianapolis game or watch … pick a game. Seattle," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "I think that one of the things you look at, just in the last seven or eight weeks, this is a team that's running the ball exceptionally well. Defensively, they're [among the league leaders] in takeaways. ...
"They're a team that can do a lot of things very well. They're fast on offense. Their offensive line is healthy. Defensively they're right at the top of the league in sacks, hurries, pressures. They're very well coached. And despite the injury at quarterback [to Sam Bradford earlier this season], you see the numbers and you see how they've been able to rush the football."
The problem with the Rams this year has been consistency -- which has to be expected with the youngest roster in the NFL. They've lost two straight games, including a 30-10 loss at Arizona last Sunday. But during their past six games they also gave the Seahawks a great battle in a 14-9 loss at home, crushed the Colts 38-8 at Indianapolis and beat the Bears 42-21 at home.
As Payton referenced, the Rams rank among the top three teams in the NFL in both sacks and quarterback pressures per pass attempt. Standout pass-rusher Robert Quinn ranks second in the league with 13 sacks, and Chris Long has 6.5 sacks.
"They play very well at home," Brees said. "I saw their previous home game this year against Seattle, they played them very tough. Chicago, put up big numbers [against] them. I just know the environment we're walking into and how their defense kind of thrives on that. As we look at their defense, their pass rush, we try to neutralize that. They do a great job of taking the ball away."
Although they insisted that this a new Rams team, the Saints are well aware of what can happen if they sleep-walk into the Edward Jones Dome. In 2011, when the Saints finished as a 13-3 team, they lost 31-21 at St. Louis in late October when the Rams were 0-6 at the time. They also barely won at St. Louis during their 2009 Super Bowl season.
Plus, the Saints have obviously been far too inconsistent themselves on the road this year, where they're 3-3 (as opposed to 7-0 at home).
The Saints lost a close game at New England in Week 6, put up a stinker in a loss at the New York Jets in Week 9 and got blown out two weeks ago at the Seattle Seahawks. Even two of the Saints' road wins (at Tampa Bay in Week 2 and at Atlanta in Week 12) were low-scoring nail-biters.
"I think we've talked about it quite a bit, what a challenge it will be," Brees said of Sunday's game. "Throw the records out the window, these are two tough football teams playing each other in a tough venue. It gives them an advantage to play in a venue like that just like it gives us an advantage in the Superdome, so we're going to have to play our best."