Following two weeks of practices, meetings, and weight room workouts, the New Orleans Saints will finally face another opponent for the first time tonight since leaving the field as Super Bowl XLIV champions when they open their 2010 preseason at the New England Patriots at 6:30 p.m.
This will be the first time since 2005 and the ninth time overall that the Saints will face the Patriots in the preseason with the series tied 4-4. In their last regular season meeting, New Orleans defeated New England 38-17 on November 30, 2009 to improve to 11-0.
Thursday's matchup will take place following two days of joint practices at Gillette Stadium with the Saints and the Patriots. Under Head Coach Sean Payton, the Saints have posted a 9-8 mark in the preseason. Their 3-1 mark in 2009 was seen as a springboard towards the most successful season in franchise history.
Both New Orleans and New England enter the start of the 2010 campaign with high expectations. The league's top-ranked offense in both scoring and yardage for the second consecutive season, the Saints shattered franchise-records by scoring 510 points, the ninth-highest regular season total in NFL history and putting up 6,461 total net yards on the ground and through the air. Opportunistic defensive and special teams units accounted for 39 takeaways, the second-highest total in the NFL. A franchise-record seven players were named to the Pro Bowl.
QB Drew Brees enjoyed one of the most prolific seasons ever by a signal-caller and his finest season as a professional. He set an NFL single-season record by completing 70.6 % of his passes, completing 363 of 514 throws for 4,388 yards with 34 touchdowns passes. Brees, named the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player for his flawless performance in the NFL's title game is aided by an offensive line that has surrendered only 72 sacks since 2006, the second-lowest total in the league. Supported by a talented group of position players, including RB Reggie Bush, WR Marques Colston and TE Jeremy Shockey, the offense returns all 11 starters and most major contributors in 2010.
New Orleans' opportunistic defense, which adopted a ball-hawking personality under coordinator Gregg Williams, finishing second in the NFL with 26 interceptions returns nine-of-11 starters. The unit scored eight touchdowns off of turnovers in the regular season and one more in Super Bowl XLIV. The defense is led in the middle by the unit's captain MLB Jonathan Vilma, who has led the club in tackles for two straight seasons. Up front, DE Will Smith has provided the heat with 49.5 sacks since 2004, the seventh-highest total in franchise history. The Saints special teams units return a specialist group that excelled in 2009 and have used training camp practices and competition to improve their coverage units.
New England, the last club to win two consecutive Super Bowls is coming off a season where they finished 10-6 and captured the AFC East title for the seventh time in nine seasons. They feature one of the most explosive offensive attacks in the NFL led by QB Tom Brady and wideouts Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Defensively, they finished fifth in the league in scoring defense, surrendering only 285 points.
Tonight's broadcast can be seen regionally on CST in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles and Mobile/Pensacola regions, as well as on WVUE-FOX 8 in the New Orleans area. It can also be seen in the following markets on these stations:
Biloxi/Gulfport, MS...Cable One
Panama City, FL...WMBB-DT2.