METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Ever since getting pounded by the Seahawks early last month, the New Orleans Saints have learned to love the idea of going back to Seattle.
Coach Sean Payton has even had Seahawks logos painted on their outdoor and indoor practice fields.
"I feel like coach Payton is putting us in the moment, you know, visualize this is where we're going, this is what we're going to do and this is how it's going to look," linebacker and defensive captain Curtis Lofton said Tuesday. "That's how I took it. Be in the moment, because this moment doesn't come around too often."
In one respect, the moment is coming around for the second time since Dec. 2, when the Seahawks' 34-7 victory over New Orleans put Seattle in the driver's seat for the NFC's No. 1 seed and home advantage throughout the playoffs.
This time, of course, the stakes are significantly higher. The winner of Saturday afternoon's divisional round playoff game advances to the NFC championship against either Carolina or San Francisco.
After the first meeting, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said prophetically that if the Saints wanted to reach the Super Bowl, they'd probably have to return to Seattle in the playoffs.
Brees said the message was: "If we want to accomplish what we set out to accomplish this year then we better find a way to go there and win, and just hoping that we'd have another opportunity. And here we are, having that opportunity.
The Saints' offense, which ranked No. 4 in the NFL this season, was unable to approach its usual standard against the Seahawks in Week 13.
New Orleans' seven points tied their lowest scoring output since Payton, who designed the offense, took over in 2006. The Saints' 188 total yards were their fewest of the Payton era, and Brees' 147 yards passing were his second fewest as a Saint.
"There are a lot of things about that game that we walk away from and say, 'Man, that was not us,'" Brees said. "We've got to give a lot of credit to (Seattle) because ... they forced us to be that way. But then again, there's a lot of things that we know we can correct and get better at, and I feel like we have."
Safety Malcolm Jenkins said the Saints may have overthought their previous visit to Seattle because of how famously loud the Seahawks' home field is. Players wore custom-made ear plugs and coaches used flip cards on the sideline to communicate.
"We did put a lot of thought into going to Seattle" the first time, Jenkins said. "I don't think we'll put as much thought into all those small details this time, but we know it's a tough place to play."
Zach Strief said experience tells him it is generally hard to beat NFL teams twice in one season because the talent gap is usually pretty thin.
"It's nice to get an opportunity to play a team that beat you like that again. And look, we got exactly what we deserved, and they got what they deserved. They played better than us, and we didn't execute," Strief said. "But I don't think you carry the sins of old games into this one. They don't start up six points because they won last time."
Likewise, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said he doubts the Saints' confidence would remain shaken by the previous meeting.
"Anything can happen in the playoffs," Sherman said. "They are a great experienced, seasoned playoff team. The previous result really has no bearing in this game."
Sherman was less sure of what to make of Seahawks logos on Saints practice fields.
"I guess that is a way of getting prepared and being in a similar environment," Sherman said. "It is hard to imitate the environment that our fans and our stadium create."
Notes: Saints starting CB Keenan Lewis was back at practice after leaving last Saturday's game to be tested for a concussion. Neither Lewis nor Payton discussed the nature of Lewis' injury, but Lewis said he would be ready to play in Seattle. ... The Saints placed OLB Parys Haralson on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle and promoted rookie OLB Rufus Johnson from the practice squad to the active roster. New Orleans also released S Isa Abdul-Quddus and signed Jordan Pugh. ... RB Pierre Thomas and DE Akiem Hicks were not at the portion of practice open to reporters, but Payton declined to discuss their status and the team was not required to submit an injury report until Wednesday.
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Posted on Wed, January 8, 2014