Almost none of the national conversation centered around the Saints this season has to do with their play on the field. Conversations that normally centered around a high-profile passing attack and Super Bowl aspirations have given way to a seemingly unending list of court dates, motions and testimonies.
The infamous Bountygate scandal that rocked the NFL has taken its toll on the Saints. After a slow start, the Saints — like the Eagles — are hoping Monday night’s game provides a springboard for a positive second half of the year.
"The only questions people want to ask are 'What’s it like not having (Saints head coach Sean Payton) here?' and 'What’s it like with the whole bounty thing?' said Saints quarterback Drew Brees during a conference call Thursday. "It seems like a never-ending saga."
The Saints started the season 0-4 before beating Brees’ old squad in the Chargers and division-rival Tampa Bay. But just as the team was gaining momentum they were handed a 34-14 drubbing by Peyton Manning and the Broncos last Sunday night. Brees threw for a season-low 213 yards in that game.
The Saints’ defense is the worst in the league, surrendering over 474 yards per game. Despite that, Brees is on pace to have yet another exemplary season. His 2,310 passing yards and 20 touchdowns each rank second in the NFL. But he knows he’ll have his hands full against an Eagles defense looking to rebound after a tough showing last Sunday.
"I see a very aggressive defense. I see a lot of talented players on the defense," Brees said. "They do a great job. They can get pressure on the quarterback. They’ve got two elite corners and I think, really, all around, it’s a very solid defense."
In many ways, the Saints and Eagles are having similar seasons. Years that started out with promise have not gone as planned, and both teams are looking to use the other as a chance to get the season back on track. So it makes sense that Brees’ feelings on the season will sound familiar to Eagles fans.
"Every week is such a challenge," Brees said. "Every team is good, and you have to go out do the grind and play your best each week if you expect to win. So you’re going to have stretches where you win a few; you might have stretches where you lose a few ... Now, more so than ever, now that we’re 2-5, we can’t look past anybody. We can’t look further down the road than just the next game; the one that’s right in front of us."
Brees and the Saints have played many memorable games against the Eagles in recent years. Because both teams are perennial playoff contenders, their matchups have carried extra meaning. Neither team has started the way they had hoped, and both will want to use Monday night as a chance to generate momentum for a playoff push. Brees expects it to add some juice to what already promises to be an exciting affair between two star-studded teams.
"It’s Monday Night Football; primetime," Brees said. "It’s going to be a great environment for football and you have a lot of playmakers on the field for both teams on both sides of the ball. So that makes for a fun, exciting atmosphere."
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