FOXBORO — To Leigh Bodden‘s way of thinking, maybe that embarrassing 38-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints before a national TV audience was the best offseason motivation for he and his teammates in the Patriots secondary.
And while the Pats were blown out against the Ravens in the first round of the AFC playoffs, it’s that game last Nov. 30 that many observers feel caused Bill Belichick, personnel chief Nick Caserio and management to go out and draft Devin McCourty and continue an overhaul of their secondary.
In case you forgot, on his way to an eventual Super Bowl title, Drew Brees threw for 371 yards and hung up five touchdowns on the Patriots secondary in that Saints romp before a national audience on Monday Night Football in the Superdome.
“Definitely, definitely it’ll be a good test for us. Super Bowl champs, they’re passing attack was great last year and I’m pretty sure they’re fine-tuning it and we’re fine-tuning our defense.
And while the scene will be much different this Thursday night for the preseason opener at Gillette Stadium – a game in which Brees and Tom Brady will be lucky to play two series before being yanked, Bodden will surely have flashbacks to that harrowing night in the dome.
But if you think those numbers led Bodden to believe he and his secondary teammates were just not good enough to compete with the best offense in football last season, think again.
“I think we were [good] last year but we just didn’t show it that game,” Bodden said. “We didn’t come out the way we wanted to. This year we’re focused, and we’re ready for the challenge and we’re ready to practice hard against them and just compete, something we didn’t do a very good job of last year and we’re definitely focused on that this year.”
As for Bodden himself, it wouldn’t be a shock if he were held out of Thursday’s game as a precaution after getting medical clearance to play after tweaking a knee last week in camp.
“I have no indications but Thursday’s gameday and if you’re out there, you have to bang,” Bodden said. “That’s all you can do when you’re out there.”
Whether he plays Thursday or not, he will likely have the benefit of scrimmaging against the Saints in practice in controlled game situations.
“My first couple of years in Cleveland, we scrimmaged Buffalo,” Bodden recalled Monday. “It’s definitely intense. As a young guy, I was a free agent so I had to make a name for myself so I was doing anything and everything to show the coaches I could compete at the highest level.”
Perhaps the biggest advantage to these scrimmages in practice belong to the rookies and young players trying to make their best impression on coaches and other decision-makers evaluating talent. Instead of their debut against another team coming in a game, they get the chance to square off against another helmet in practice. For Bodden, there’s a much simpler reason he’s happy to see the Saints this week, two days before their first game.
“Because it’s not your teammates so that’s good, and it definitely gets guys prepared for the game, especially the young guys,” Bodden said. “You don’t have to throw them right in the fire.”