The New Orleans Saints will bring an eight-game regular season home winning streak, tied for best in the NFL, into the 2012 regular season opener when they host the Washington Redskins at noon Sunday.
The last time the Saints lost a regular season home contest was in the 2010 regular season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they fell 23-13, with many of the club's starters on the sideline in the fourth quarter and without an opportunity to improve playoff positioning.
The Saints' fan base set a team record last season as well, as a total of 584,336 fans attended regular season games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome – the most in the facility's history.
The 37 regular season wins that the Saints have posted since 2009 are the most in a three-year period in club history and are tied with the New England Patriots for the most by an NFL team over the past three campaigns.
"The Superdome is always an electric atmosphere," said WR Lance Moore, who joined the team in 2005. "We are always excited to play at home in front of the Who Dat Nation."
New Orleans has posted three consecutive seasons of at least 11 wins for the first time in team history. The Saints' 62-34 regular season record since 2006 is second in the NFC (behind the Green Bay Packers) and sixth in the NFL.
The Black and Gold open the regular season after going 2-3 in the preseason. The Saints closed out the preseason on Thursday, August 30, in a 10-6 road loss to the Tennessee Titans.
The Saints rested most of their starters for the Titans game. The preseason finale capped off a hectic week for the Saints as they practiced two days in Cincinnati after evacuating New Orleans due to Hurricane Isaac.
Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Coach Joe Vitt was pleased with the team's effort in the Titans game and proud of their progress during the entire preseason.
"I think as we review this film, we're really going to like the way a lot of people played," Vitt said. "They played with a sense of purpose. They played with better technique. I think if you take a look defensively, except for the first quarter against Jacksonville, we've gotten better all summer long."
Sunday's contest is the first time Offensive Line/Running Game Coach Aaron Kromer will lead the Saints as he will replace Vitt during his six-game absence.
Kromer said he was honored to be assigned to this new role and emphasized the team will follow the same formula that they've had since 2006.
"(With) a six-game run here in the beginning, it is important to start fast," said Kromer. "We will do the same things that Sean Payton has done over the years. We will follow the same program. The coaches on this staff, with Pete Carmichael, with (Steve) Spagnuolo, with Greg McMahon, those three guys know how to run a program themselves. For me, it's an opportunity but it is also a collaborative situation where we will all work together and solve this thing."
QB Drew Brees said Kromer is very well respected in the locker room and understands how Payton would want the team to operate. The Pro Bowl signal-caller said the Saints have really come together over the past six weeks and will rally behind Kromer to kick off the season.
"We are all for making things better," said Brees. "We are not saying we have all the answers or that the way we do things is exactly the right way. We continue to evolve and adapt and maybe add and subtract as we go along to make things better but the core will remain the same."
The Washington Redskins enter the regular season after going 3-1 in the preseason. Washington closed out the preseason with an impressive 31-3 victory over the Tampa Buccaneers on Wednesday, August 29.
The Redskins are in their third season under Executive Vice President/Head Coach Mike Shanahan. Washington holds an 11-21 record during Shanahan's tenure, including a 5-11 mark last season, but several offseason moves by the two-time Super Bowl winning coach have the nation's capital set up for a football revival.
Shanahan and the Washington organization successfully executed a trade with the St. Louis Rams for the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, with which they picked former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The Redskins also brought in a strong core of free agents to bolster their roster including wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan and safety Brandon Meriweather.
The Redskins lead the all-time series against the Saints with a 15-8 record, but New Orleans has won three out of their last five battles.
The last time the two squads met, the Saints earned a dramatic 33-30 overtime win at FedEx Field on Dec. 6, 2009. The Saints rebounded from three ten-point deficits in that contest and K Garrett Hartley sealed the win with an 18-yard field goal in overtime. The win would improve New Orleans' record to 12-0 and clinched the NFC South title en route to a franchise-best 13-0 start and the Super Bowl XLIV Championship.
Brees completed 35-of-49 attempts for 419 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in that contest.
The last time the Saints and Redskins squared off in New Orleans was in 2006 when Washington claimed a 16-10 win.
Next Sunday, the Saints will travel to take on their division rival Carolina Panthers in a Noon CT contest as they open play in the NFC South.