<span> <span style="TEXT-DECORATION: underline;">SAINTS TRAVEL TO PHILADELPHIA TO FACE EAGLES IN NFC SHOWDOWN ON SUNDAY</span>
Following an exciting season opening 45-27 win over the Detroit Lions at the Louisiana Superdome, the New Orleans Saints (1-0) will play two consecutive road games away from their friendly confines, starting with a trip on Sunday to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Philadelphia Eagles (1-0).
This week's match-up against the team that advanced to the NFC Championship and narrowly missed a berth in the Super Bowl will serve as a stiff test for New Orleans.
Sunday's opening win was filled with strong performances by a combination of longstanding veterans and several key newcomers. The Saints got off to an early 14-0 lead they would not relinquish and racked up 515 yards of total offense. The offense was backed by a new look defense that held the Lions to 231 yards of total offense and showed a nose for the ball by making three interceptions on the way to their most lopsided opening day victory in club history.
Not missing a beat after a record-setting 2008 season, QB Drew Brees passed for 358 yards and tied a club record that stood for nearly 40 years by throwing for six touchdowns, including TE Jeremy Shockey's first two as a Saint. WR Devery Henderson led the Saints in receiving with five receptions for 103 yards, including a 58-yard bomb from Brees for a touchdown. The ground game carried an equally impressive load. RB Mike Bell carried 28 times for a career-high 143 yards, the highest regular season rushing total by a Saint since 2003.
The new-look Saints defense served as a solid complement for Brees and the offense. The Lions managed only 33 yards on the ground on 20 carries compliments of an outstanding run- stopping effort up front. New Orleans allowed Detroit to convert only 3-of-14 (21%) third down attempts successfully. Darren Sharper enjoyed a standout debut at free safety, picking off Lions rookie QB Matt Stafford twice, while amassing a total of 79 yards on returns. With 56 interceptions, the key free agent acquisition is now tied for tenth all- time in NFL annals.
The Saints linebacker corps enjoyed an extremely active day. Scott Fujita tied for the team lead with seven tackles (five solo) and defended a pass. Scott Shanle also recorded the first interception of his career. Jonathan Vilma had four stops, a sack for a loss of seven yards and defended two passes.
The Saints offense will face a stiff challenge against Philadelphia, which is coming off of a 38- 10 thrashing of the Carolina Panthers where a stingy defense forced seven turnovers. Although the status of Eagles QB Donovan McNabb is uncertain due to a rib injury, the Eagles possess plenty of firepower on offense led by versatile RB Brian Westbrook.
IN THE NFC SOUTH: The Atlanta Falcons will host the Panthers in a key early season divisional match-up. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will travel north to face the Buffalo Bills, next Sunday's opponent for the Saints.
WORTH NOTING: Philadelphia holds a 15-9 advantage over the Saints in the regular season series. The teams have split two playoff meetings, the most recent being a Saints win in the 2006 NFC Divisional Playoff...In their last meeting on December 23, 2007 at the Louisiana Superdome, the Eagles defeated the Saints 38-23...Ten games in the series have been decided by a touchdown or less, five by three points or less...The Saints will be seeking to win in Philadelphia on Sunday for only the third time in 11 tries and for the first time ever at Lincoln Financial Field...Sunday's contest will be nationally televised on FOX (WVUE FOX-8 locally) with Joe Buck handling play-by-play, Troy Aikman serving as color analyst and Pam Oliver serving as sideline reporter...The game can heard regionally on the Saints Radio Network (WWL 870 AM and 105.3 FM locally) with Jim Henderson handling play-by-play, Hokie Gajan serving as color analyst and Kristian Garic reporting from the Saints sidelines...A Spanish language broadcast can be heard on WFNO 830 AM with Emilio Peralta handling play-by-play and Marco Garcia serving as color analyst.
Saints Head Coach Sean Payton is 26-23 in the regular season and 1-1 in the postseason. He is the lone head coach in club history to open his career in New Orleans with three straight wins, and his winning percentage (.531) is ranked second-best for a Saints head coach. His 14-11 (.560) home mark is also ranked second in team history. Payton has recorded a 21-16 (.556) mark vs. NFC opponents. He was hired as New Orleans' 14th head coach on January 18, 2006, after serving on the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff from 2003-2005. He has successfully overtaken a rebuilding project by reshaping the majority of the team's roster, with only eight players remaining from the 2005 campaign. Prior to joining the Cowboys, Payton served on the New York Giants staff from 1999-2002, including the final three years as offensive coordinator. His tenure was highlighted by a Super Bowl berth in his first full season as coordinator. Payton's prior NFL coaching experience came as quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1997-98.
Philadelphia Head Coach Andy Reid is 108-69-1 since joining the Eagles in 1999. He inherited a 3-13 club, has since earned NFL Coach of the Year honors twice and captured four-straight division titles. Reid led Philadelphia to four-straight NFC Championship Game berths (2001-04) and has posted the most play-off wins in club history (seven). In 2001, he was promoted to head coach/executive vice president of football operations.
Dec. 23, 2007: Philadelphia Eagles 38 @ Saints 23
Louisiana Superdome – Closing out the home schedule, the Saints hosted the Eagles for the third time in two seasons. Philadelphia was able to exact revenge for the Saints' 2006 sweep with a 38-23 win.
Both teams started hot, combining for 35 first-quarter points as the Eagles took the opening kickoff and scored just three plays later on a strange play that proved costly to the Saints. QB Donovan McNabb ran for 40 yards before having the ball knocked out of his arms by S Josh Bullocks from the 24-yard line into the end zone, where it was a recovered by Philadelphia WR Kevin Curtis for a TD. In the scramble for the loose ball, CB Mike McKenzie suffered a torn knee ligament that ended his season.
The Saints responded with a pair of RB Aaron Stecker touchdown runs to take a 14-7 lead, taking advantage of a fumble recovery by DE Will Smith that set up the second score. Philadelphia closed out the quarter with two touchdowns to lead 21-14 after 15 minutes. The offensive show slowed in the second quarter as the teams traded field goals with Saints K Martin Gramatica booted a 55-yarder as the half expired.
An early third quarter goal-line stand by the Eagles keyed a second half where the visitors added to their lead with a pair of touchdowns and the Saints were able to only muster two Gramatica field goals.