NEW ORLEANS — Motivational tactics to combat their road futility dominated the New Orleans Saints’ approach to last week’s NFC wild-card game against Philadelphia. Green Gatorade, Popeyes chicken, sweatsuits and gas cans flooded conversations within the locker room. It amounted to the team’s first road playoff win in franchise history.
This week the motivating factor for the Saints as they head to Seattle for Saturday’s divisional playoff matchup is more succinct: 34-7.
The Seahawks trounced the Saints, 34-7, on Dec. 2 at CenturyLink Field, giving New Orleans its worst loss of the season in front of a national TV audience on “Monday Night Football.” The defeat also sent the Saints into a mini-tailspin as New Orleans ended the season with three consecutive road losses.
The Saints were 9-2 before the loss to Seattle and competing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. After the defeat, New Orleans scratched its way into the postseason as the sixth seed, wrapping up the regular season at 11-5.
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So what was this week’s motivational tactic? Saints players showed up Tuesday with a Seahawks logo emblazoned at midfield of their indoor and outdoor practice fields.
Coach Sean Payton said he wanted to create the “exact environment” the Saints will experience when they head up to Seattle for a second time this season. Payton’s latest ploy had different reactions among his players.
“That’s all part of the little things we do through the week to prepare ourselves. It’s just knowing your elements and just put yourself in the moment as much as you can,” Drew Brees said. “It’s in the indoor facility as well. Just knowing that you’re going to see a lot of those colors when you step into that stadium and preparing to play your best on the practice field and hope that carries over.”
Linebacker Curtis Lofton added: “Visualize this is where you’re going. … Be in the moment, because this moment doesn’t come around too often.”
Then there’s cornerback Keenan Lewis’ philosophy.
“Actually, I want to call a couple of guys from the West Bank,” said Lewis, who also claimed he’ll be ready for Saturday’s game after sustaining a head injury in the 26-24 win over the Eagles last weekend. “We’ll probably come cut the grass tonight and get that off the field. I don’t want to see nothing with a Seahawk logo on it.”
Defensive end Junior Galette said the Seahawks logos on the fields were “somewhat” a refresher of how Seattle dominated the matchup earlier this season.
“It’s a reminder daily that we know what we’re up against,” Galette said. “We feel like this is the best team right now in the NFC, and we’ll see. We’ll have to go up there and kind of have some revenge.”
Seattle’s defense held the Saints to 188 yards, the fewest offensive output in the Payton/Brees era. The only time Brees threw for fewer than his 147 yards vs. the Seahawks when playing essentially an entire game was when he threw for 132 yards in a win over the Giants on Dec. 24, 2006.