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Saints Focused on Clinching Playoff Berth This Weekend Despite the Weather

Dec 13, 2010 – 10:29 PM
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Ray Glier

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The Saints (10-3) can clinch at least a playoff wild card spot on Sunday if they can beat the Baltimore Ravens and the Green Bay Packers lose at New England and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose at home to the Detroit Lions.

That is a tough task. The Saints will go into Baltimore to play a veteran team and the weather conditions will be much different than the Louisiana Superdome. Temperatures will be in the 30s and could produce a wintry mix that could affect the pass-heavy New Orleans offense.

The Saints have won six straight, which has included a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are also an AFC North team. That game, however, was played within the cozy confines of the Superdome.

The Ravens certainly have much more experience playing in cold weather conditions. The Saints played at Cincinnati on Dec. 5 in chilly weather and won, 34-30.

"I think we are a team that can handle either playing inside or outside," said Saints coach Sean Payton. "I think that we are a team that is battle tested and we have been able to handle the elements whether it's been wind or cold weather. I think we look more closely at travel logistics in regards to Thursday games or Monday games then we do weather games.

"I think there is a confidence that comes with where your team is at. Chances are that if you are playing well outdoors, then you are probably playing pretty well. You are probably a better team. I am confident that we will be able to handle that. You go through that aspect of mentally and physically understanding how a game can change a little bit with regards to wind, temperatures, and so on."

The Ravens, who were 8-4 before Monday night's game at Houston, are better dealt with by a balanced offense that can pass, but mix in some runs. That's why the condition of Saints rookie running back Chris Ivory's hamstring will be watched carefully this week in practice.

Ivory gained 47 yards in the first half before leaving with a sore hamstring. He told reporters after the game he thought it was more a hydration issue (cramping) than a tight muscle.

Veteran running back Pierre Thomas, who missed nine games with an ankle injury, returned Sunday and got more work than expected with Ivory out. Thomas carried 12 times for 39 yards.

"I remember turning to him and saying, 'Hey I just wanted to make sure you were feeling good,' " Payton said about a sideline discussion with Thomas. "I knew that both he and Reggie (Bush) were eager for that challenge. Both of them were in good shape when I approached them about it."

Extra Points

• Saints kick returner Courtney Roby suffered a concussion late in the first half. He was expected to be released from the hospital on Monday. The knee of a tackler struck Roby in the back of the head.

• Saints quarterback Drew Brees said the club has survived the Super Bowl after-party and is ready for the business of defending its title. There were injuries (running backs and secondary) and slumps (kicker Garrett Hartley) and ill will (running back Thomas vs. Payton), but the Saints have come out the other side with a 10-3 record.

"The adversity's going to come," Brees said. "It's just, 'How are we going to handle it once it arrives?' And I felt like we did. We weathered the storm. We're battle-tested. We've found a way to win a lot of close games. And I feel like we're as tight as a team as we've ever been. So all of that's important, and that's what the great teams are able to do."
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