SEATTLE — Jed Collins had a simple answer for a simple question Monday night, less than 60 minutes after his Saints were cut down 34-7 by Seattle at cold and loud CenturyLink Field.
“Good team, simple as that,” the fullback said. “We played a good team tonight. They were better than us. Lesson learned. Move forward. It’s going to hurt on the plane ride home but tomorrow you wake up and get ready for Carolina.”
Easier said than done.
Monday night was billed as a matchup of the NFC’s two best teams, 10-1 Seattle against 9-2 New Orleans and there’s no question the best team in the NFL was in the stadium.
Seattle was bigger, faster, stronger and louder, as their locker room entrance claims.
For the other team – New Orleans – there’s no telling how far they may fall or how hard it will be to get ready for the Panthers.
Because it doesn’t get any easier from here.
If you’re looking for positives, there simply aren’t any.
Against Seattle, New Orleans got a lesson in what playoff football will look like this year and it wasn’t pretty. In the biggest regular season game of the Sean Payton Era, the Saints played as poorly as theyhave since the pre-2009 years.
They allowed the most yards they had all season, gained the fewest yards ever in a game in which the starters played and couldn’t get out of their own way, committing several drive-ruining penalties on both offense and defense.
The Seahawks came out with a game plan that confused the Saints’ defense and when New Orleans wasn’t confused, it wasn’t anywhere near stopping Seattle.
New Orleans’ offense couldn’t match Seattle’s physical play, either, at the line or down the field and every time it took a step forward, penalties forced them backwards.
“They were winning a lot more than we were,” right tackle Zach Strief said. “I know that. At the end of the day there’s a lot of kind of individual battles on every play and we lost a lot more of them than we won today.”
The Saints were dominated in every sort of way and now they must play possibly the hottest team in the NFL other than Seattle, a Sunday night affair with division rival Carolina.
For the first time in a long time, the Saints know what it feels like to get run out of a building, much like they do to teams at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
And maybe that’s the biggest thing about losing in Seattle – New Orleans all but lost any chance of earning home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
When asked afterward how he would answer questions about the Saints struggling to play on the road, quarterback Drew Brees scoffed, bringing up New Orleans’ NFL-best 24-13 road record since 2009.
“So, if you just look at that, nobody has really done their research,” Brees said, mirroring the incredulous tone of his coach from earlier in the week.
But with all due respect to one of the NFL’s all-time greatest quarterbacks, it’s not about what they’ve done in the past. As they constantly tell us in interviews, it’s about the present and for New Orleans, it has been painstakingly hard in 2013.
On the road, where they’re scoring just 18.8 points per game, their differential is negative-3.7 points thanks to the defense allowing a touchdown more on average than in the confines of the Superdome.
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It’s not just the defense giving up points. Brees himself is worse on the road. While he has averaged a 121.55 quarterback rating in six home games, six games on the road have netted on average an 82.18 rating.
At home, he averages 9.12 yards per attempt and on the road it’s just 6.92.
So, yes, New Orleans, like most other NFL teams, isn’t as good on the road this season. The Saints needed home-field advantage. Now they likely don’t have it.
They can, however, still secure the No. 2 seed and to do that, they have to move on from Monday’s letdown.
“I mean, we’re used to being on the other end of these types of games,” Brees said. “So it is frustrating, it’s disappointing. We’re a much better team than what we put out there. But listen, we’ve gotta take our lumps. We’ve gotta get better. … We’ve got to rally. Carolina’s coming to town, same record as us, fighting in this division.”
In other words, there’s a new biggest regular season game in the Payton Era and it’s coming in six days.
The good news for the Saints?
It’s at home.