NFL talking-heads and message board trolls have spent the week questioning the Saints’ ability to play on the road and on grass. If that’s the best they can come up with to give the 49ers an edge in today’s matchup then there’s truly a major malfunction in America’s education system at all levels. A simple analysis of the Saints’ win/loss record on the road and on grass over the last three seasons (including ’11) blows the myth they can’t win on either right out the water.
True, the Saints have never won a post-season game on the road—unless you count an obscure game known as the “Super Bowl” as a road game. Last week’s 45-28 blowout of the Lions at Dome was the Saints fifth postseason victory in a row on the hallowed turf of the Superdome. Undeniably, the Saints have been invincible at Dome this season, winning all eight of their home games for the first time in franchise history.
A year ago, the Saints were touted as nearly invincible ON THE ROAD in the run-up to their Wild Card Round contest in Qwest Field (which proved otherwise.) Over the last three seasons, the Saints’ 18-6 road record is #1 in the NFL. This season, the Saints’ 27 PPG on the road is also #1 in the League. Vegas odds-makers have given the Saints a 3-pt edge today in Candlestick—only the second time since ’82 that a ROAD team’s been favored in a Divisional Playoff game.
All three of their losses this season were on the road: Week 1 in the archeological artifact called Lambeau Field, Week 6 in the carny attraction aka Raymond James Stadium, and Week 8 in the vast, empty space named the Edward Jones Dome.
Only one of the three has an all-natural grass surface: Raymond James—surprise! Lambeau Field has Desso GrassMaster, a combination of Kentucky blue-grass interwoven with artificial fibers.
Cold, hard stats also dispel the myth the Saints can’t win on grass. Over the last three seasons, the Saints have lost a grand total of four games (three if you exclude Lambeau’s hybrid surface from the list.)
Drew Brees’ situational stats also dispel the myth the Saints can’t play on grass. On turf, his seasonal QBR is 118.4; on grass, it’s 95.7 (still higher than Alex Smith’s 90.7 QBR on all surfaces combined.) Outdoors, Drew’s QBR is 96.4; indoors, 120.5.
If anything, research shows that an all-natural surface is a DISADVANTAGE to both home and visiting teams. Grass fields suffer more wear and tear over the course of a season and are harder to maintain than hybrid surfaces. Candlestick Park’s playing field is 100% Bluegrass. Alex Smith trips in the same holes dug by cleats as Drew Brees.
Alas, the 49ers won’t have help from Candlestick’s notorious surface winds, the one natural environmental factor that would give them some advantage based on their familiarity with their homefield (as opposed to genetically-engineered wind resistance.) San Francisco’s game-time weather forecast calls for sunny skies, temperatures ranging from 63 to 56 degrees, and max. NNE winds of 4 m.p.h.
There go the 49ers’ hopes they’ll get any help from the Saints’ record on the road and on grass now that these myths have been thoroughly debunked. I guess we’ll just have to play football on an even playing field instead. Even Candlestick’s infamous gusty winds—the one environmental factor that has wreaked havoc on visiting teams--won’t blow today…although a MIGHTY BREES is STILL on the way.