With players being given the day off, Tuesday’s Patriots access was limited to the weekly teleconference with head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. While a few of the questions had to do with Sunday’s 13-6 loss at Cincinnati, many more were focused on the team visiting Gillette Stadium this weekend.
The New Orleans Saints are 5-0, one of only three teams in the NFL still without a loss (the Broncos and Chiefs are the others). Led by quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints are fourth in the league in yards gained, second in passing yards, and ninth in scoring. But they’ve also been solid on defense under first-year coordinator Rob Ryan. None of their first five opponents scored more than 18 points.
“They’re pretty impressive, they do a lot of things well,” Belichick said. “They have a very good offensive attack. Good personnel, good scheme. It’s why they’ve won five games.”
The teams haven’t played each other since Nov. 30, 2009, a Monday night game in New Orleans that saw the Patriots get manhandled, 38-17. Brees threw for 371 yards in that game and five touchdowns, completing 18 of 23 passes. He’s still with the Saints, but they have a new batch of skill players surrounding him.
“It’s another team that we don’t know very well, so we’ve got to make up some ground on them preparation-wise this week,” Belichick said. “That’s all part of the challenge.”
Tight end Jimmy Graham was still playing in college at Miami (Fla.) the last time the Patriots and Saints met, but he has been a key contributor in his time with New Orleans, especially this season. He’s caught 37 passes for 593 yards (16.0-yard average) and six touchdowns. He’s on pace to set career highs in all of those categories.
“Jimmy Graham and Drew have a real timing relationship, he does a great job of finding open areas, whether it’s in zone coverage or man coverage,” Patricia said. “He’s a big target for Brees to throw the ball to, he’s got a big catch radius. He’s just a big-bodied person that gives you a difficult matchup.
“There’s obviously a trust relationship there that they’re going to be in the right spot and be on the same page.”