Monday Night Football back in New Orleans, the home of the New England Patriots first of three Superbowl victories this decade against the St. Louis Rams in Superbowl XXXVI. Not to be forgotten, New Orleans is also where the New England Patriots lost in the Superbowl to the Green Bay Packers in Superbowl XXXI and also the Chicago Bears in Superbowl XX. New England has a lot of history in New Orleans and they could add to that tonight by beating the team that many are comparing to the 2007 Patriots. As TCFB write Chuck Hanf shows in his article, through as many games this season, the Saints are close, yet under matched to the '07 Pats.
What can the Patriots do in order to win tonight? In previous years, this wouldn't even be a question. Here in New England, we would expect to go in and shut down the high octane Saints offense with our attack style defense and we would expect nothing less than perfection from Tom Brady. Things are different now and we can not expect to go in and have the Saints roll over on this one.
Play Our Game
If the Patriots go into this game and try to get into a shootout with New Orleans, most likely, and I hate to say it, we'll probably walk away with our heads down in a last minute loss. Similar to the Indianapolis Colts, the Saints can score at any time from any point on the field. We need to go in there and play our game and not get desperate if we fall behind. The offense needs to stick to moving the chains and waiting for a breakdown in defense and continue to control the clock while driving up the field.
Laurence Maroney Needs To Show Up
As much as I've dogged him this season, and well deserved dogging at that, Maroney will be a big key to the Patriots winning this game. We already know that Moss and Welker will carry their load if Brady stays confident and has good blocking. L-Mo needs to keep doing what he's been doing for the past five weeks. He will need to lower his shoulder and fight for every yard that he can get while keeping the clock moving and the Saints offense off the field. If the Patriots can't run the ball effectively, we will become one dimensional and play right into the Saints hands.
Alignment And Assignment
The defense needs to play mistake free football and take care of their individual jobs. New Orleans has a lot of speed on the field and Drew Brees has various weapons to move down the field. New England needs to keep the ball in front of them and make stops, especially on third down.
Ball Control And Field Position
Defense leads to special teams, which is where we need to keep the Saints in bad field position and ourselves in good field position in order to capitalize on all aspects of the game. This game could be settled by a field goal, which means we need to take advantage of field position and score, one way or another, every opportunity we get.
This game is going to be as fundamental as it gets. Offense, defense, special teams and field position. If the Patriots can control the ball and the clock, the rest will fall into place if we don't make any mistakes. No turnovers, no bad calls and don't get taken out of the game by having your head somewhere else. Confidence and the ability to go through the motions will keep the AFC East in our hands. It's going to be a hell of a game tonight and I can't wait 'til 8:30. Neither can Mark Calnan from EMSB who's hosting his live blog of the Pats/Saints tonight.
Thanks to Keith Allison for the picture of Tom Brady.