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Saints Host Lions on Sunday to Kickoff 2009 Campaign

    <span style="">             <span style="text-decoration: underline;">PREVIEW</span>: Following five weeks of training camp, consisting of a 3-1 preseason where they outscored opponents by a 107-38 clip and endured countless meetings and grueling weight room and conditioning workouts, the New Orleans Saints will kickoff their 43rd NFL season on Sunday, hosting the Detroit Lions at the Louisiana Superdome.   

It marks the second straight year that the Saints have opened the regular season at home.  Last year, following a week of practices in Indianapolis due to Hurricane Gustav, the Saints put together a stunning 24-20 come-from-behind-win at the Superdome. New Orleans Head Coach Sean Payton, who is entering his fourth season, has posted a 2-1 record in season openers, which is tied for the highest winning percentage (.667) in club history for first games.

Sunday's game marks the second time the Saints and Lions will kick off a season against each other. In 2000, Detroit defeated New Orleans 14-10, at the Superdome. The Saints would rebound from the early loss to post a 10-6 record that season, win the NFC West and record their first playoff victory in franchise history.

After finishing 2009 with an 8-8 record, the Saints enjoyed a successful offseason by retaining several key performers as well as upgrading their roster through free agency and the draft. In their first business of the offseason, the Saints re-signed three key players entering free agency in WR Devery Henderson, who led the NFL by averaging 24.8 yards per catch. T Jon Stinchcomb, one of the mainstays on an offensive line that surrendered a club-low 13 sacks and LB Jonathan Vilma, who led the team with 151 tackles and three fumble recoveries.

The club then signed a group of top-notch free agents (FB Heath Evans, CB Jabari Greer and S Darren Sharper) and further upgraded their secondary by choosing CB Malcolm Jenkins with the 14th pick in the NFL Draft.

The Saints are again led on offense by QB Drew Brees, who enjoyed one of the most prolific seasons in NFL history. He completed 413-of-635 passes for 5,069 yards with 34 touchdown passes and a 96.2 passer rating. Brees' yardage total was the second highest in NFL history and he tied for the league lead in TD throws as he was named the AP Offensive Player of the Year and represented the Saints at the Pro Bowl.

Also returning for the Saints on offense are RBs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, WRs Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Lance Moore and TE Jeremy Shockey, key components to a unit that that led the NFL in both points per game and yards per game.

In addition to Vilma, several other key returning veteran contributors and newcomers such as Greer and Sharper, the defense also features young, ascending players such as DT Sedrick Ellis, S Roman Harper and CB Tracy Porter.

IN THE NFC SOUTH: All four teams open at home as Carolina hosts the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans' opponent next week. Tampa Bay will face Dallas and Atlanta will start their season against Miami.

Saints Head Coach Sean Payton is 25-23 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 victory total and winning percentage (.521) is ranked third-best for a Saints head coach. His 13-11 (.542) home mark is ranked second in team history. Payton has recorded a 20-16 (.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. A Super Bowl berth highlighted his tenure in his first full season as coordinator. Payton's prior NFL coaching experience came as quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1997-98.

Detroit Head Coach Jim Schwartz is in his first season in charge of the Lions and leading an NFL club. Schwartz came to Detroit following ten seasons on the Tennessee Titans staff, including the past eight as defensive coordinator. Before joining the Titans, he spent three seasons as a defensive assistant with the Baltimore Ravens, starting his NFL career as a scout when the team was located in Cleveland.

This will be the second game for Coach Sean Payton vs. the Lions since he was hired as head coach of New Orleans in 2006. The first contest was a 42-7 victory for New Orleans on December 21, 2008, the largest margin of victory for either club in the all-time series.

The series is tied 9-9-1, with the first game in the series ending in a 20-20 tie on Nov. 24, 1968 at Detroit's Tiger Stadium. The two cubs split the ten meetings from 1970-89. The longest win streak in the series for either club is three games. Most of the games in the series have been extremely close, with 11 contests between the two clubs being decided by a touchdown or less, including the three of the last four match-ups, and three by a field goal or less. The Saints are 6-3 at home against Detroit, including a 4-1 mark at the Superdome.

Dec. 21, 2008: Saints 42, Detroit Lions 7 @ Ford Field – Behind four first half rushing touchdowns by four different players and two second half scoring passes by QB Drew Brees, the Saints knocked out the winless Lions. New Orleans scored touchdowns on their first six possessions, and ranked up 532 yards of total offense to Detroit's 255. Brees threw for 351 yards, with nine passes being caught by WR Marques Colston (99 yards and two touchdowns) and the running game, led by RB Pierre Thomas (13-77-one touchdown) rushed
or 181.

The Saints jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead on rushing touchdowns by WR Robert Meachem and RB Deuce McAllister. With four rushing touchdowns by four different players in the first half it was the first time in 57 years that four NFL teammates scored first-half rushing touchdowns in the same game. Detroit would score for the first time in the second quarter, but would not be able to get back into the end zone the remainder of the afternoon.

A look at the top individual performances for Saints players against the Lions in the previous 19 meetings between the two clubs:

• RB Mario Bates – 29 carries for 172 yards, two TDs, @ the Louisiana Superdome, Sept. 21, 1997.
• RB Derek Brown – 25 carries for 125 yards, @ the Louisiana Superdome, Sept. 19, 1993.

• QB Drew Brees – 30 of 40 for 351 yards, two TDs, @ Ford Field, Dec. 21, 2008
• QB Archie Manning – 25 of 36 for 314 yards, one TD @ the Pontiac Silverdome, Oct. 12, 1980.
• QB Bobby Hebert – 23 of 32 for 282 yards, one TD @ Pontiac Silverdome, Sept. 18, 1988.
• QB Aaron Brooks – 27 of 48 for 269 yards, two TDs @ Ford Field, Sept. 29, 2002.
• QB Archie Manning – 20 of 30 for 250 yards, two TDs @ Tulane Stadium, Nov. 19, 1972.

• WR Wes Chandler – Six receptions for 106 yards and one TD @the Pontiac Silverdome, Oct. 12, 1980.

SACKS vs. LIONS (3 )
• LB Rickey Jackson – 4, @ the Pontiac Silverdome, Sept. 18, 1988 (tied club record).
• DE Wayne Martin – 4, @ the Louisiana Superdome, Sept. 21, 1997 (tied club record). • LB Renaldo Turnbull– 3, @ the Louisiana Superdome, Sept. 19, 1993.

• S Anthony Newman – 2, @ the Louisiana Superdome, Sept. 21, 1997.

• LB Renaldo Turnbull – 3, @ the Louisiana Superdome, Sept. 19, 1993.

• LB Rickey Jackson – 2, @ the Louisiana Superdome, Sept. 19, 1993

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