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Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Oh when the Saints, go on the road ...

By John McTigue

Even after a loss to the St. Louis Rams in Week 15, the New Orleans Saints are ranked fifth in the weekly NFL Power Rankings. The Saints’ ranking all season has been a reflection of how well the team plays at home. Whenever the Saints venture out of the Superdome, nothing seems to click.

The Saints are 3-4 and averaging 18.4 points per game on the road this season. At home, they are 7-0 and averaging 32.9 points per game.

The Saints’ struggles on the road aren’t limited to any one area. Passing, rushing and defense all seem to lose a step when outside of New Orleans.

Drew Brees
Brees makes the Saints’ offense go, and his performance on the road has taken a significant dip this season.

Brees has an 80.3 Total QBR when at home this season, which is second to only Peyton Manning (82.0). Brees’ 55.8 QBR when on the road is 12th in the NFL, but is only slightly above the league average (51.8).

One of the reasons behind the dip in Brees’ road performance is an increased degree of difficulty hitting the deep ball.

In New Orleans, Brees has completed 59 percent of his passes thrown 15-plus yards downfield with 10 touchdowns. On the road, Brees’ completion percentage on those passes falls to 40 percent, which is below league average (42 percent). Brees has only four such touchdowns on the road this season.

Running game
The Saints are one of the most pass-happy teams in the NFL, dropping back on 67 percent of their plays this season, third highest in the NFL and highest of any team with a winning record. The Saints do depend on the run, however, and heading outdoors causes problems.

When playing indoors this season, including road games in Atlanta and St. Louis, the Saints have averaged 4.4 yards per rush (excluding kneel downs). When playing outdoors, the Saints have averaged 3.5 yards per rush.

The struggles to run impact Brees’ ability to work off play action. In those outdoor games, Brees has completed 54 percent of his play-action passes, compared to 67 percent when playing indoors.

Pass rush
The Saints’ four-man rush just hasn’t had the same impact on the road this season as at home.

When sending four or fewer rushers, the Saints have recorded 18 sacks at home, which has accounted for 9.0 percent of opponent dropbacks. On the road, the Saints have only six sacks using such rushes, or 3.8 percent of opponent dropbacks.

The dip in creating pressure has impacted the rest of the pass defense. The Saints have eight interceptions when sending four or fewer at home to only one on the road.