Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Payton has heartfelt ties with Philly fans

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PHILADELPHIA -- Sean Payton has plenty in common with the some of the fans who'll be rooting hard to see his team lose.

Payton is coming home when the New Orleans Saints (11-5) visit the Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) in an NFC wild-card playoff game Saturday night. The Saints coach spent his formative years in the Philadelphia suburb of Newtown Square in the early 1970s, and attended the Flyers' Stanley Cup championship parade as an 11-year-old in 1975.

"There are a lot of friends and family back there," he said. "The first pro football game was at the Vet. The first baseball game was at the Vet. The first college game was Army-Navy. The Flyers winning back to back Stanley Cups, all of those things were a part of my childhood and so the sports fans are amazing there, very passionate and a real die-hard fan base. That presents challenges when you play, especially in the playoffs."

Payton got his first coaching job in the NFL on Ray Rhodes' staff in Philadelphia in 1997-98, and then joined the Giants in 1999. He moved on to work under Bill Parcells in Dallas before going to the Saints and leading them to a Super Bowl title.

Payton has one fan on the opposing sideline.

"Sean does a great job of getting his playmakers in matchups that are favourable to him, and he does it week in and week out," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "There's a consistency to it, and I think they missed him a year ago, and now that he's back, they seem like they picked up where they left off."

The Saints were 8-0 in the comfort of the Superdome and 3-5 away from home this season. They've never won a playoff game on the road, going 0-5, 0-3 under Payton. However, they won the 2010 Super Bowl outdoors, beating Peyton Manning and the Colts in Miami. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 20s at Lincoln Financial Field.

"Obviously we don't have a chance to practise in it," Saints QB Drew Brees said. "We've all played in that kind of weather before, not on a consistent basis... you just kind of make the preparations."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 3, 2014 C6

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