Cooks, Pa­tri­ots head to New Or­leans

Pa­tri­ots, Saints smart­ing from open­ing-week losses

Pawtucket Times - - SPORTS - By BRETT MAR­TEL Associated Press

NEW OR­LEANS — Brady, Brees and Bono. How's that for a mid­dle-aged power trio?

When New Eng­land quar­ter­back Tom Brady and his pro­lific New Or­leans coun­ter­part, Drew Brees, take the Su­per­dome field on Sun­day, it'll be just days af­ter U2's con­cert. Seems fit­ting, given the as­so­ci­a­tion the Ir­ish rock­ers had with key moments for both fran­chises in that sta­dium.

U2 played when the ren­o­vated Su­per­dome re­opened a year af­ter Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina for the Saints' tri­umphant 2006 home opener. They also played half­time of Brady and the Pa­tri­ots' maiden Su­per Bowl vic­tory in the Big Easy in 2002.

For many foot­ball fans in New Or­leans, U2's lat­est Su­per­dome show Thurs­day night served as an apt pre­lude to a game fea­tur­ing two quar­ter­backs who are not only among the most ac­com­plished in NFL his­tory, but who can ac­tu­ally re­mem­ber when “The Joshua Tree” al­bum came out in 1987.

The Saints pre­sented the band with a foot­ball signed by Brees and coach Sean Pay­ton. U2 drum­mer Larry Mullen Jr. wore a T-shirt with “Saints” printed on the back, and the crowd roared when it was shown on the big screen. U2 also played riffs of “The Saints Are Com­ing” — which they'd also per­formed with Green Day at the dome's '06 re­open­ing — as Saints-style fleur-de-lis sym­bols scrolled up the ex­pan­sive screen be­hind the stage.

Now 40, Brady and Brees, 38, come in highly mo­ti­vated to help their clubs re­cover from Week 1 losses.

“It is very im­por­tant. It is our home opener and we want to get ev­ery­body back on track,” Brees said. “Ob­vi­ously, there's a lot of things to cor­rect.”

Sim­i­larly, Brady noted that the Pa­tri­ots “played very poorly in the fourth quar­ter” of a sea­son-open­ing loss to Kansas City.

This week, they must “be the kind of play­ers that our team­mates can de­pend on and try to go get a win at a very tough place to play,” Brady said.

Here are some things to know about the Pa­tri­ot­sSaints matchup:

SUS­TAINED PRO­DUC­TION: Brady and Brees have com­bined for stag­ger­ing pass­ing num­bers: 128,251 yards and 922 TDs. Brees stands third in NFL his­tory with 66,402 yards and 466 TDs, and Brady fourth with 61,849 yards and 456 TDs. Brady's 208 ca­reer wins as a starter, in­clud­ing play­offs, rank first in NFL his­tory.

They also hope their ca­reers are nowhere near over, par­tic­u­larly af­ter last sea­son, when Brees led the NFL in yards pass­ing. Brady led the Pa­tri­ots to a fifth Su­per Bowl ti­tle.

“I'd say we prob­a­bly both have the mind­set that we want to change the norm of what is pos­si­ble in re­gards to how long a guy can play and the level that they can play at,” Brees said.

MU­TUAL AD­MI­RA­TION: Brees said he's ad­mired Brady since he first played against him in col­lege be­fore the turn of the cen­tury — a 1999 vic­tory for Brady's Michi­gan over Brees' Pur­due.

Brees re­called how Brady, then a se­nior, had to share snaps with Drew Hen­son in the mid­sea­son game.

“Stand­ing on the side­line across from him, to me, it was ob­vi­ously Brady's team and he had to share time with this fresh­man,” Brees re­called. “Yet, his ap­proach and his dis­ci­pline dur­ing that time — he played at such a high level, but he just wor­ried about what he con­trolled . ... By the end of the sea­son, they just flat out gave the start­ing spot to Brady and they played lights out.

“That prob­a­bly shaped and molded a lot about him — a lit­tle bit of a chip on his shoul­der, which has ob­vi­ously served him well, a men­tal dis­ci­pline and a men­tal tough­ness that's un­matched.”

Brady said it was “pretty cool,” some 18 years af­ter that col­lege meet­ing, to play the lat­est of sev­eral games against Brees.

“I have so much re­spect for Drew and what he's ac­com­plished,” Brady said. “Play­ing against him for a long time; I know the chal­lenges a Drew Brees-led team presents. We've got our work cut out for us.”

RUN SUP­PORT: Both teams were dis­ap­pointed by their run­ning games last week, par­tic­u­larly in light of key free-agent signings: Adrian Peterson with the Saints and Mike Gil­lislee with New Eng­land. Gil­lislee had three touch­downs in his de­but, but it was largely a foot­note as New Eng­land's ground game was in­ef­fec­tive in the sec­ond half against the Chiefs. Still, that com­pared fa­vor­ably to Peterson, who played just nine of­fen­sive snaps, gain­ing only 18 yards on six car­ries — and giv­ing Pay­ton a glare on the side­line. “I didn't sign up for nine snaps,” Peterson said. “Un­for­tu­nately, that's the way the game played out.”

HOME COOK­ING: The game brings Brandin Cooks back to New Or­leans, where he was a 2014 first-round pick and played his first three sea­sons. Brady said he's glad Cooks is on his side now. “He's pretty unique,” Brady said. “His ma­tu­rity is prob­a­bly what sur­prised me the most . ... He wants to do ex­tra. He wants to know what I'm think­ing. He just wants to do the right thing all of the time.”

ROOM FOR ER­ROR: While one team will drop to 0-2, re­cent NFL his­tory sug­gests nei­ther team should be in panic mode. Since re­align­ment in 2002, 108 of the 180 play­off teams (60 per­cent) opened 1-1 or 0-2.

Photo by Louri­ann Mardo-Zayat / lmzart­

Tom Brady and the new Eng­land Pa­tri­ots head to New Or­leans look­ing to avoid fall­ing to 0-2 for the first time since 2001.

Photo by Louri­ann Mardo-Zayat / lmzart­

Chris Ho­gan (15) was one of many Pa­tri­ots who are look­ing to atone for their per­for­mance last week against Kansas City. The Pa­tri­ots visit New Or­leans Sun­day af­ter­noon.

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