NEW ORLEANS - It's hard to tell the New Orleans Saints have never won a road playoff game, the way running back Pierre Thomas said yesterday he doesn't consider them underdogs against the Eagles.
Even at Lincoln Financial Field.
Even in game-time weather expected to hover around 20 degrees on Saturday night, far from the light-jacket weather of the Big Easy in late December.
"We're not gonna look above ourselves or anything else, or put ourselves down," said Thomas, whose Saints are 6-8 all-time in the playoffs. Coach Sean Payton has won all but one of the franchise's postseason wins, including a Super Bowl XLIV victory.
"We're gonna go out here and do what we have to do. We're gonna get the job done. We're gonna stay focused. We know everything is on the line at this point."
The Saints (11-5) earned the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs and a spot in this wild-card matchup against the Eagles (10-6) with Sunday's 42-17 regular-season finale against Tampa Bay. It ended a two-game losing streak for the Saints, the first consecutive losses of the season. Not surprising, both losses occurred on the road - at St. Louis (Dec. 15) and Carolina (Dec. 22).
The Saints, while undefeated this season at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, finished the regular season at 3-5 on the road, which included close losses at the New York Jets (Nov. 3) and New England (Oct. 13), and a blowout at Seattle (Dec. 2).
The struggles have transpired for different reasons, from quarterback Drew Brees and tight end Jimmy Graham, one of the league's top passing duos, failing to connect and the offensive line failing to protect Brees to special-teams blunders and the inability of the revamped defense under first-year coordinator Rob Ryan to stop opposing offenses on the final possession.
"We've been asked these questions now the last few times we've been on the road," said Saints inside linebacker David Hawthorne, whose fourth-ranked defense is allowing 305.7 yards per game. "It just comes down to we need to go out there and win and do what it takes to win . . . A couple of times, we started slow.
"We're not really focused on being a home or away team. We just have to put together a complete game."
Such an effort might start with mixing things up, as Payton vowed to do - literally.
"No, seriously, the red Gatorade that we've been drinking and the orange obviously hasn't been doing it," Payton said on a conference call with reporters. "So we're switching up to green."
Consider it playful banter. But also consider it the Saints' way of embracing their road errors as they attempt to end their struggles away from home.
Fans at Lincoln Financial Field won't make it any easier.
"These are passionate fans that love their football team," Payton said. "It'll be loud. It's a hostile environment and a very difficult place to play. I think their fan base does a great job of certainly pulling for their team."
Still, Thomas will be ready.
"Oh, yeah, I prefer cold," said Thomas a Chicago native who played college football at Illinois. This season, Thomas has rushed for 549 yards and two touchdowns.
"Actually, you know out there playing, I'm sweating so much, my body's overheating, I kinda need that cool air to cool me down."