Looking Ahead: The New Orleans Saints

An insiders look at the New Orleans Saints preparations for the game against the New England Patriots. This is the second time these two teams met this year. The first game was a preseason matchup when Deuce McAllister was still healthy and the Saints rumbled to a 37-27 victory.

After four much-needed days away from football, the Saints returned to practice Monday to prepare for the final seven games of the season.

Jim Haslett turned his team loose after two days of practice last week, giving the players and coaches some time to pause and try to forget about a five-game losing streak that has left them with a 2-7 mark for the first time in his six seasons as a head coach.

"I think it came at a good time," said left tackle Wayne Gandy. "It's like a basketball coach calling a timeout when the other team's on a run."

There was one added bonus - at least for Gandy - during the time off.

While many of his teammates took advantage of the weekend off to travel to all parts of the country to visit their homes and families, Gandy said he stayed in the Saints' temporary home of San Antonio the whole time and did absolutely nothing.

"No airplanes this week," he said, "we've seen enough of those this year already."

No matter what they did with their time away from the rigors of an NFL season, the players said it was nice to get their minds off the team's on-field struggles.

"This game can wear on you physically, mentally and emotionally," veteran tight end Ernie Conwell said. "And with the situation we've been in, it can wear on you even more. So this was much needed."


--TE Ernie Conwell will probably be sidelined for Sunday's game with the New England Patriots because of a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He's eyeing the Nov. 27 game with the New York Jets for his return.

--MLB Courtney Watson will likely miss Sunday's matchup with the Patriots after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his knee in the Saints' most recent game on Nov. 6.

--TE Shad Meier, who was inactive for the Saints' last game with the Chicago Bears because of a hip injury, will likely be listed as questionable for Sunday's game.

--WLB T.J. Slaughter has missed the last five games with a pulled abdominal muscle and will be listed as questionable for the Patriots.

--RB Antowain Smith had a sore knee last week, but should be ready for Sunday's game with the Patriots.

--DL Tony Bryant missed Monday's practice to be present for the birth of his child, but should be back at work Wednesday.

--WR Nate Poole will have surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and a torn patellar tendon in his right knee.

--QB Aaron Brooks has completed 151 of 278 passes for 1,924 yards and seven touchdowns through nine games. He has thrown 12 interceptions, has been sacked 26 times and has a passer rating of 66.6. Brooks has also rushed for 220 yards and a 6.7 average with two TDs.

--QB Todd Bouman is 5-of-13 for 31 yards with two sacks and one interception. In addition to serving as the backup to Brooks, Bouman is the holder for kicker John Carney.

--RB Antowain Smith has taken over as the team's leading rusher with 360 yards and a 4.8 average on just 75 attempts. Smith, who rushed for 110 yards in the team's most recent game, also has two TDs and has caught six passes for 28 yards.

--RB Aaron Stecker has added 170 yards on 47 carries and has 10 receptions for 65 yards. Stecker also is the main kick returner and has averaged 24.2 yards on nine returns in the absence of the injured Michael Lewis.

--WR Donte Stallworth is the Saints' leading receiver with 38 catches for 548 yards and three TDs. The four-year veteran is on pace to finish with career highs in both receptions and receiving yards.

--WR Joe Horn has battled a hamstring injury that forced him to miss three games and all but a handful of plays in a fourth. The four-time Pro Bowl pick has 24 catches for 346 yards and one TD.

--WR Az-Zahir Hakim, who has been bothered by knee and hamstring problems, has caught 18 passes for 303 yards and one score when he's healthy enough to be the third receiver.

--TE Ernie Conwell, who has missed one game with a knee injury, has 13 receptions for 165 yards and one TD but is valued more as a blocker in the running game.

--PK John Carney, a 16-year veteran, has connected on 15 of 21 field-goal attempts this season with two blocked. He has made all 18 of his extra-point tries and leads the team with 58 points.

--SS Dwight Smith is tied for the team lead with two interceptions, has broken up four passes and has forced a fumble in eight games. He also ranks third on the team with 47 total tackles.

--RDE Will Smith, a second-year pro, leads the Saints with four sacks and has also contributed 39 tackles in a backup role.

--RDE Darren Howard has recorded 38 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks while playing with an assortment of injuries. He has forced two fumbles and recovered one.

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