In the last month-and-a-half for New Orleans – encompassing six games, beginning with a Thursday night, nationally televised game against Carolina on Oct. 30 – the Saints have played their best football on the road.
In that time, both of their victories have been away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, while all four losses have been at home. So it doesn't hurt that the Saints (5-8) have had recent success away from home as they prepare to play the Bears (5-8) in Chicago on "Monday Night Football."
The sense of urgency – the Saints control their destiny in the chase for the NFC South Division title and the Bears, though eliminated from the playoff race, are hoping to finish the season on a high note – is palpable for both teams. New Orleans has lost four of its last five games and Chicago, seven of its last 10.
The Saints, courtesy of their recent success in Carolina (a 28-10 victory) and Pittsburgh (35-32), have a clear formula for how that success occurred.
"No. 1, you've got to be good on third down," Coach Sean Payton said. "That's an area we've got to be better at. I think quickly getting acclimated to how this game is being played with the weather conditions (will be key) – in other words, how big of a factor is (the wind), being prepared to run the ball maybe more, understand which direction you're going with regard to your down the field throws. If there's a ton of precipitation, you've got to plan accordingly – these shields (on helmets) have to all come off.
"I think the key to those road wins, we overcame the early two turnovers in Carolina and we got back to even in that game. In Pittsburgh, we were able to capitalize on some (turnovers). So I think that those third downs, ball security (are critical). All of those issues that can be varied when you play on the road, as opposed to constant when you're playing at home."
Running back Pierre Thomas said that while the preference is playing at home and being successful there, being on the road can be considered beneficial.
"It gave us a good mind-set, being on the road, a different atmosphere," he said. "Every team is tough and just going out there and trying to get a victory, that's a big challenge. Our mind-set is protecting our Dome once we're in there, but now we're on the road and our main focus is getting a 'W' on the road."
And, as was the case against Pittsburgh, the Saints travel after having suffered a home loss. The victory against the Steelers came after three straight home losses, and players were asked that week if a road trip was coming at the right time for the team.
"I know these are the same questions that were asked before we went to Pittsburgh," quarterback Drew Brees said Thursday. "I hope the results are the same. I guess I could say that.
"But again, I think it shakes it up a little bit. You get an extra day of preparation throughout the week, an extra day to get your body right, which is good. That is always needed this time of year, especially for veteran guys.
"On the road, prime time, 'Monday Night Football,' everybody is watching. We are right in the thick of the hunt so man, this doesn't get any better."