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Thursday, August 21, 2014
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Gazzolo Column: For the Saints, location means everything

Last Modified: Monday, November 04, 2013 7:35 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

Just like in real estate, the only real thing that matters when it comes to the Saints’ playoff hopes is location, location, location.

For those who don’t think as much, they must have missed last Sunday’s game.

With talk of another deep run toward a second Super Bowl all over the Bayou, the New York Jets, a roller-coaster team with a rookie quarterback, knocked New Orleans down to size.

The surprising outcome was fueled by many factors, some of which are major and some minor. But the biggest of all was the site of the game.

At home inside the Dome, the Saints are among the league’s elite. They are a high-flying, entertaining circus under their own big top. But in the open air, away from home, it is a different story.

Sunday’s 26-20 defeat to the roller-coaster Jets proves once again how important it is for the Saints to earn home playoff games.

No other team benefits from home cooking like New Orleans. It is not just the crazy fans who invade the Superdome on game day either. It is the way the club is built. The Saints are made for indoor football.

But they are turned inside-out when they hit the road. This is nothing new to dome teams in general.

In the history of the Super Bowl, only twice have teams which play their games fully indoors won championships. Don’t give me Dallas, they have a hole in their roof.

It is just the Saints and Indianapolis Colts. That’s it.

Even the Saints’ title is titled toward the indoors as they beat the Colts, played the NFC title game against another indoor team, the Minnesota Vikings, and were home for both playoff games.

This is not to scare New Orleans fans off the bandwagon but rather show just how important it is for the Saints to play in the Big Easy. When you get into the postseason, especially when it gets cold and wet, the game changes.

The Jets showed the formula of winning in the playoffs outside.

New York ran through the  improved New Orleans defense and pressured Drew Brees into enough mistakes to keep the Saints out of the end zone. And the Jets are not even the best at doing this.

The Saints, who are suddenly just one game ahead of the surging Carolina Panthers in the race for the NFC South championship, had their holes exposed in the outdoors.

So instead of looking ahead, they now must look over their shoulders.

And now comes the season’s hard part. They still have two games against the Panthers, a road game at Seattle and home tilts against San Francisco and this weekend against Dallas.

Of those, only the Cowboys do not have a power run game, slashing quarterback and tough defense, the formula for beating New Orleans.

Unless the Saints can run the table, it is likely they will have to play at least one of those teams in the playoffs on the road.

As if that is not enough to worry about, remember the Super Bowl itself will be held in the same stadium the Saints just lost in. And the weather in early February won’t be any better.

It is a tough, long road to the championship, one that would be helped greatly for the Saints if they got to stay at home for as long as possible.

For the Saints, location means everything.

• • •

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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