METAIRIE, La. — Since Sean Payton took over as the Saints’ head coach in 2006, New Orleans has been among the best in the NFL at winning on the road.
Since 2009, the Saints have been unusually good away from the Crescent City. At 23-11, in fact, no one is better at winning on the road.
But poll those involved and you’ll get a myriad of answers as to why that’s so.
“I don’t know if the schedule is anything or the process is anything uniquely different,” Payton said. “It is just trying to prepare for the different elements and avoid some of the distractions. The first thing that you are challenged with is just noise that would be the first, very common challenge that you are faced with.”
The Saints (5-0) will go on the road for the second consecutive week, traveling to New England (4-1) for a 3:25 p.m. game at one of the NFL’s toughest places to win.
The Patriots lead the league in home wins since 2006, going 36-6 in that time. In fact, since 2009, New England has lost only three home games, going 29-3 in that span in regular season games.
Tight end Benjamin Watson has played for three different franchises and four different coaches. He said Payton is similar to Patriots coach Bill Belichick in focusing on the small picture while maintaining what it means overall.
They both do that by making sure the players are focused on important things.
“He does a great job of preparing us for individual situations, kind of making the big picture small even when it comes to how we play in certain places,” Watson said, pointing out that Payton was sure to alert his players about wearing the correct studs and cleats in Chicago because of the notoriously poor field conditions.
It’s turnovers, however, that remain the focus this week, Watson said. A week after facing a Bears team that dominates in taking the ball away, the Saints will once again go against one of the league’s best at doing so, especially at home.
In the past 10 games at Gilette Stadium, the Patriots are plus-15 in turnover differential, taking the ball away 22 times. They’ve lost only two of those games.
New Orleans is 5-5 on the road since the beginning of 2012 and is minus-one in turnovers. But the Saints are 3-1 in that stretch in games they don’t turn the ball over at all.
Right guard Jahri Evans, meanwhile, has a different view of what has made New Orleans successful on the road.
It’s crowd noise and the Saints’ ability to take the home fans out of games early.
“The real constant I can only think of is crowd noise, unless you’re playing in Jacksonville,” Evans said. “That’s the only thing. Playing in Seattle when you’re up 14 and when you’re down 14 is two different places. Last week in Chicago, it was loud at times, but it wasn’t as loud as it could have been. That’s when variables change.”
He recalled how much a difference the noise made in New Orleans’ 2010 playoff loss at Seattle, when the Seahawks remained firmly in the game throughout.
“Only thing I can really think of is Seattle because I can remember (Jon Stinchcomb) not being able to hear,” Evans said. “We were relaying everything down the line. We were relaying the kills, relaying what we were doing all the way to the tackles. When you take that element out, that’s one less thing you have to worry about.”
And then there’s one more theory. The communication between Payton and Drew Brees and the quarterback’s communication with the rest of the offense is key to coming out on top.
“There is always a shift in momentum that takes place in a game, also at home it certainly can take place on the road and just having that poise to be able to shift the momentum back in your favor, not making the mistakes that sometimes can be magnified when you are playing on the road,” Payton said.