For the second time in three weeks, the Patriots' young, budding defense gets a chance to showcase itself against an elite, record-breaking undefeated quarterback as the team heads to New Orleans (10-0) for a Monday night matchup with the Saints.
Part of the uproar in the fourth-and-2 controversy following New England's 35-34 loss to Peyton Manning and the Colts in Week 10 was the statement Bill Belichick's decision sent to his defense. Former Patriots defenders turned media analysts Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison shredded the Hall of Fame coach's choice and pointed to the lack of faith it showed in their former unit.
Now, after dismissing the Jets in an emotional bounce-back effort at Gillette Stadium, the defense gets another shot to show its stuff against a pretty formidable measuring stick in Drew Brees and his record-setting attack.
But the Patriots defense has reason to feel good about itself heading to The Big Easy, despite any message sent by Belichick in Indy. The unit forced Manning into a pair of interceptions two weeks ago and got rookie Mark Sanchez to the tune of four interceptions in Sunday's 31-14 win over the Jets.
It also has the benefit of a New England offense that's playing as well as it has all season and looks a lot more like its own record-setting self of 2007. Tom Brady has thrown for 300 yards or more in five straight games, Wes Welker is coming off a 15-catch, 192-yard effort in beating the Jets and Randy Moss has been his usually playmaking self for the most part this season.
That's all good because New England heads to New Orleans expecting a dog fight, one that like its recent trip to take on the undefeated Colts in Indy, could end up a high-scoring shootout.
"Best team in the league right now," running back Kevin Faulk said of the Saints. "That's what we have to think about. That's how we have to think about approaching this game. So we have to play our best game of the season."
Brady, for one, thinks the Patriots are coming together at the right time of year and, indeed, playing their best football when it matters the most.
"We've really had three bad second halves, which is why we've got three losses. We've learned a lot from those losses and I'm looking forward to what's ahead. Coach always says the season starts after Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving's Thursday, so we've got six regular-season games left," Brady said. "The Saints are going to be -- Coach said probably the toughest opponent we face this year, right there with the Colts. So I'm glad we're playing this kind of football. The defense is getting a lot of turnovers for us."
TRENDING: After failing to score 30 points in each of the first five weeks, New England has scored 31 or more in four of its last five games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- The number of wins the Patriots have in an opposing team's stadium this season. New England (7-3) lost on the road to the Colts, Broncos and Jets.
--G Stephen Neal missed his first game of the season when he sat out the Jets contest with a head injury suffered a week earlier in Indy. Dan Connolly started in Neal's spot at right guard.
--WR Sam Aiken missed his first game of the season with a hip injury.
--LT Matt Light and RB Sammy Morris continued to be out of action due to knee injuries, despite the fact that the pair has returned to practice for the last couple of weeks.
--RB Fred Taylor (ankle), CB Shawn Springs, LB Rob Ninkovich (knee) and Jarvis Green (knee) rounded out New England's inactive list against the Jets.
--CB Leigh Bodden opened the scoring against New York with a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter. The veteran first-year Patriots then added a second interception in the second quarter and a third in the fourth to tie a Patriots record with three interceptions in the victory.
--WR Wes Welker had a career day in beating the Jets with 15 catches for 192 yards, numbers that rank second and third respectively in New England franchise history.
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