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John DeShazier: Saints have players that know what it takes to win road playoff game

Posted Jan 2, 2014

Ben Grubbs, Ben Watson, Parys Haralson all have tasted victory on the road in playoffs

As an organization, it’s well documented that the New Orleans Saints haven’t yet won a road playoff game. They‘re 0-5 in the postseason away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome entering Saturday’s wild-card game in Philadelphia against the Eagles.

But there are individuals on the roster who have experienced triumph on the road in the playoffs, veterans who say the Saints (11-5) have what it takes to win at Lincoln Financial Field.

“First and foremost, you’ve just got to know that the intensity level goes up,” said left guard Ben Grubbs, who this season earned his second Pro Bowl berth.

Grubbs was a Baltimore Raven from 2007-11, and helped his team win road playoff games in Miami and Tennessee in 2008, against in New England in 2009 and at Kansas City in 2010.

“The fact that if you lose and you go home – it’s a big deal,” Grubbs said. “The focus picks up, the intensity, the enthusiasm – you’ve just got to carry all of that on the road when you win. I think that’s what we’re going to do.

“We’ve got a new step to our walk, we’re changing up some things, we’re going to go in there believing that we are a good team and we have what it takes to win.”

Linebacker Parys Haralson, a San Francisco 49er from 2006-12, watched his team win the NFC championship game in Atlanta last season. Haralson was injured and didn’t play in the game, but knows the thought process a team should have entering a road playoff game.

“Basically, be yourself,” he said. “It’s always hard when you go into another team’s place to play. You’ve got to be able to bring your ‘A’ game. You bring your ‘A’ game, and just get it done.

“You can look at all the different things. You can say it’s hard, it’s difficult or whatever you may think, to win on the road. But it’s either win or die. I think that’s pretty much enough said. You have no other choice.”

A major contributing factor, said tight end Ben Watson (a New England Patriot from 2004-09), is to not make more of the circumstances than is necessary. Watson and the Patriots won an AFC wild-card game in San Diego in 2006.

“To win on the road in the playoffs is not much different than winning on the road during the regular season,” Watson said. “It’s about focus, it’s about starting fast. When you come into a playoff atmosphere, obviously, the crowd is that much more amped and excited, the players are that much more excited, there’s a lot more at stake in the playoffs.

“Being a road team, it’s about coming in, starting fast when you get the ball on offense and scoring points quickly, (and) on defense shutting them down. You’ve got to be able to take the opposing team out of their plan as well as take the crowd out of the game.”

Those factors, Watson said, always are applicable on the road.

“Everybody knows,” he said. “Guys on this team, maybe they haven’t won a playoff game (on the road) but we’ve all been in road games, we’ve all been in home games, we’ve all been in the league – most of us – for multiple years. You know what it takes, it’s just a matter of doing it.

“When the playoffs come around there has to be that much more emphasis because everybody is good at this point. You make it into the tournament, the reason you make it into the tournament is because you deserve to be there and you’re a good football team. Likewise, every team you’re playing is playing good football, or else they wouldn’t be there.

“So every mistake is magnified. So the team that minimizes those mistakes and is able to execute their gameplan regardless of the elements, regardless of whether they’re home or away, is the one that wins.”

The Saints, in the past, have been the team that has made the mistakes. In the three playoff road losses under Coach Sean Payton, the Saints have committed 10 turnovers and 14 penalties. They committed seven penalties each in the losses in Seattle and Chicago; against San Francisco, when the Saints weren’t penalized, they committed five turnovers.

“I definitely say there’s something with momentum on the road, especially when you’re in a hostile environment,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “Don’t give them a reason to get excited, don’t give their fans a reason to stand up and get crazy.

“If you can score points and get a lead, that’s great. In a lot of cases you just kind of weather (the storm) and you get rolling. I think one of our things is, we really haven’t started fast on the road.”

Those are past Saints teams, Grubbs said. This one is a new one, which intends to look ahead instead of behind.

“We’re just going to continue to move forward and not look back,” he said. “This is a new year, literally, and there are going to be some good things in 2014 for us.”

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