METAIRIE, La. — The contrast between home and road for the Saints this season couldn’t be more striking.
And with New Orleans set for its seventh road game of the season, there’s one thing they can expect – more questions about the road struggles.
“There are unique things that present themselves when you are on the road and that is part of it and you just have to go out there and put your best foot forward,” Saints center Brian de la Puente said.
That, however, has been the issue this season and it’s something the Saints haven’t seen since 2006, when Coach Sean Payton arrived.
The Saints have scored only 113 points on the road this season and are on pace for their fewest points away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome ever. Only once since 2006 has New Orleans failed to score more than 200 points on the road, coming through with 183 in 2007.
While the Saints are 33-21 in road games that Payton has been on the sideline, they’re only 3-3 this season, scoring 117 fewer points away from home while allowing 27 more.
New Orleans is converting better than 52 percent of third downs at home while the rate on the road is just 38 percent. And the defense is holding teams to 31 percent on third downs at home but 40 percent on the road.
Part of the problem for offense, de la Puente said, comes down to communication. In opponents' stadiums where fans are engaged, it’s tough to hear audibles and changes at the line of scrimmage.
“We did have a couple (of plays) in Seattle that we would like to have back communication-wise,” de la Puente said. “The ultimate goal is to have none of those. We definitely can get better and this week will be a good challenge to get better.”
While the Saints have had nearly as many delay of game penalties at home (4) as on the road (5) and nearly as many false starts at home (6) as on the road (6), there are several busted plays that are a direct result of a blocking scheme not getting communicated properly.
An example came in Seattle when Pierre Thomas was hit for a four-yard loss on the first play because a change wasn’t heard at the line of scrimmage.
New Orleans isn’t alone. Seattle, New England and Denver have seen their only blemishes come on the road while Carolina has had three of the team’s four losses come away from Charlotte.
Meanwhile, the Saints have tried to find ways to help communicate better on the road, attempting to help the skill position players in Seattle by using giant placards consisting of various pictures.
Yet, New Orleans gained only 188 total yards and scored seven points, the fewest since scoring only a touchdown in a loss at Carolina in 2008.
Safety Roman Harper described the problem as an inability to start a game quickly.
New Orleans has won only once this season when trailing at halftime, a season-opening 23-17 victory of Atlanta in which the Saints were down 13-10 at the break at home.
The other three times – at New England (17-7), at the Jets (20-14) and at Seattle (27-7) – the Saints lost.
"When we come out and we play fast, we get off to good starts offensively, defensively, that's when we're at our best,” Harper said. “We've got try to find a way, no matter where we're at location-wise, to come out of the locker room and start fast."
From what St. Louis Coach Jeff Fisher has seen the Saints aren’t having any problems on the road.
“Seattle is a very difficult place to play,” Fisher said. “Everybody knows that. But beyond that there are no issues with that offense. Sean (Payton) does a great job with that and Drew (Brees) runs his show. He is very good at it and it just a really great challenge for us defensively.”