Catching up with … the Saints
|07.21.13 at 3:11 pm ET|
As we count down to the start of training camp, we’ll take a look at all 13 opponents on the Patriots’ regular-season schedule and break down each one of them. We’ve already featured the Bills, Jets, Buccaneers, Falcons and Bengals. Now, it’s the Saints.
Specifics: The Patriots will host the Saints in Foxboro on Oct. 13 at 4:25 p.m.
Say goodbye to … tackle Jermon Bushrod, running back Chris Ivory, quarterback Chase Daniel.
Welcome … cornerback Keenan Lewis, linebacker Victor Butler, tight end Benjamin Watson, safety Kenny Vaccaro, tackle Terron Armstead, quarterback Seneca Wallace. (The Saints also welcome head coach Sean Payton after a year in exile for Bountygate.)
Recent history: Not a whole lot of recent history here, but the Patriots can boast of an 8-4 lead in their series with the Saints, with three wins in their last four games. However, New Orleans got the better of New England the last time around. That came on Nov. 30, 2009, when the Patriots traveled to the Superdome and got waxed, 38-17, serving as a speed bump on the Saints’ Super Bowl. During the game, the NFL Films cameras caught Bill Belichick on the sidelines bemoaning the fact that he can’t get the 2009 team to play the way he wanted them to play — that team was perhaps the most mentally weak squad of the Belichick Era. Less than three weeks later, ‘LateGate’ occurred, and Adalius Thomas had a surreal Q&A with the media, invoking flying cars and the Jetsons. A fitting way to end a relatively rough season for New England.
The Patriots should be worried because … Drew Brees will be one of the three best quarterbacks the Patriots will face this season, and if the New England pass defense enters the game unprepared, he’ll have no problem scorching the Patriots. Brees has three receivers who are capable of going for 1,000 receiving yards this year in Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham (Colston and Moore surpassed 1,000 yards receiving last season), while Darren Sproles remains one of the best third down options in the league. While there are some questions about the consistency of the running game, the passing game is one of the finest in the league.
The Patriots shouldn’t be worried because … like almost all of the NFC South teams they will face, New England should be able to move the ball on the Saints. New Orleans was at or near the bottom of almost every major defensive category last year, including average yardage allowed (440.1 yards per game, 32nd), average passing yards per game allowed (292.6, 31st), average rushing yards allowed (147.6, 32nd) and points allowed per game (28.4, 31st). It remains to be seen if that was because the Saints were without Payton last year or if it was part of a larger, personnel/scheme issue, but you have to believe that New England should be able to put up some points on New Orleans.
The skinny: There’s a reason the network’s gave this one a coveted Sunday at 4:25 — if the weather is good, this should be a fun, wide-open shootout between two of the best quarterbacks in the league. It’s not a traditional rivalry game — the coaches and quarterbacks are pretty tight — but it should be compelling theater.