Coach Sean Payton isn’t buying the notion that his New Orleans Saints are weather sissies. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest
The weather traditional for a Puget Sound late fall — to use three meteorological terms: Crappy, icky, bleah — is upon us. With regard to Monday night’s game between the Seahawks and New Orleans Saints at the the Clink, it should be worth a point or two for the locals. The Saints are a dome team, which is NFL code for weather sissies.
A cold front is moving in. The forecasted high is 42, the low 31, with showers and a little breeze (see what I did there, Drew Brees?). If accurate, the forecast will be the first in freezing weather for the Saints in three years.
We already know the welcome for the Saints will be rude. Now it is likely to be raw. So the conditions will be a repeat of Jan. 8, 2011, when the Saints came to town as defending Super Bowl champions. They left as first-round playoff losers, 41-36 to the no-account Seahawks, the first team to make the NFL playoffs with a losing (7-9) record. They were brought asunder in no small part by the “Beast Quake” 67-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch.
Earthquakes, audio assaults, wretched weather — not an easy circumstance for the team from the Big Easy.
Since the 2006 season, when Sean Payton became coach and Brees the Saints quarterback, the franchise has been among the most consistently successful franchises, which includes a 36-24 road record, second-best in the NFL.
But according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Saints have won only two of eight games they’ve played when the temperature was below 40 degrees at kickoff. And those two wins were against teams that each ended up 4-12 on 2009: Cincinnati and Washington.
Payton was asked this week about the dome-team reputation. He grumbled that anyone asking “dumb questions” about how the Saints fare outside the Superdome “needs to do a little research on it.” So they did, and 2-8 was the answer.
But while grumpy, Payton is not foolish. He had the team practice outdoors twice this week, and he had the requisite recordings of crowd noise that attempted to simulate the Monday night cacophony. But it probably fell a little short of the then-record for stadium noise — 136.3 decibels the 12th Man lodged in the 29-3 win over San Francisco Sept. 15.
At this juncture of the season, the stakes don’t get much higher. With a win, the Seahawks can virtually lock down the NFC’s No. 1 seed because at 11-1, they would be two games up on the No. 2 Saints (9-3) with four to play, which for New Orleans includes two against perhaps the NFL’s hottest team, Carolina.
A Saints win draws them even with Seattle at 10-2, and the Seahawks follow with a road game against rival San Francisco Dec. 8. Should the Saints and Seahawks tie at the end of the season, the head-to-head tiebreaker won Monday would give the Saints home field in any playoff rematch.
The Saints figure to be the Seahawks’ most formidable remaining opponent, although suddenly nothing looks pleasurable on the remaining schedule.
On soggy paper at least, the Seahawks draw an environmental edge Monday. Finally, for Seahawks fans around Puget Sound, there is a reason to draw back the curtains Monday morning to 36 degrees and horizontally agile water, and smile.