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A year after a 7-9 season marred by the suspension of coach Sean Payton for Bountygate, the Saints returned to form, finishing 11-5 and second in the NFC South behind Carolina. The Saints did so with a pass offense led by veteran QB Drew Brees that finished second in the NFL at 307.4 yards per game, and a defense that improved in its first year under coordinator Rob Ryan, finishing fourth overall at 305.7 yards allowed per game. New Orleans gained a reputation, though, for being exceptional at home in the Superdome (8-0) but more-than-beatable on the road (3-5). But the Saints feel they shed the road monkey by winning at Philadelphia last week in the wild-card round, 26-24. That was the team’s first road playoff victory after five losses, including a 41-36 defeat at Seattle in the wild-card round in 2011.

Bob Condotta

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