Patriots in Dome for first time since Superbowl

Published 1:22 am Friday, November 27, 2009

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The New England Patriots are heading back to New Orleans for the first time since they won the Super Bowl there.

They don’t expect to spend a lot of time reminiscing.

“There’s certainly a lot of fond memories for Super Bowl 36 there, but the Saints will bring it back to reality quickly,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday. “It’s nice to reflect, but really there’s so much in front of us in getting ready for the Saints. It’s a big job here. I think we’re going to have to turn our attention to that. We already have very quickly.”

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The Patriots (7-3) will play the 10-0 New Orleans Saints on Monday night, and unlike the Super Bowl against the St. Louis Rams, the Louisiana Superdome will be anything but a neutral site. The Saints have long boasted of one of the most vociferous followings in the NFL, and they have only gotten louder as the team started winning.

“You can just tell by the fans how badly they want it,” said Patriots running back Kevin Faulk, who grew up in Southwestern Louisiana but rooted for the Dallas Cowboys as a kid. “They always did love the Saints. They just didn’t have enough to cheer for.”

That’s not good news for the Patriots, who are 6-0 at home and 1-3 on the road (with the lone victory being in London against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). They came close two weeks ago against Indianapolis — another undefeated team — before the now-notorious fourth-and-2 call set up the Colts for the winning touchdown.

Belichick said winning on the road is no more important than any other place. But it does pose some extra challenges.

“I’m sure it will be pretty awful. I’m sure that the Saints will have the great support that they’ve always had down there and the fans will be behind them as they should be, and we’ll be in a real hostile environment,” he said. “Believe me, we don’t get a great reception when we play the Jets, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh or Denver either. We’ve been yelled at before. That’s for sure.”

The Patriots did return to New Orleans before the 2007 season for Marquise Hill’s funeral, but they have not played there since winning their first Super Bowl. Only four players remain from the team that beat the Rams in the 2002 title game on Adam Vinatieri’s last-second field goal: Faulk, quarterback Tom Brady and offensive lineman Stephen Neal and Matt Light.

“You never forget that day,” Brady said. “That was pretty unbelievable for all of us. A lot of us you know, your first chance to play in a Super Bowl and winning the Super Bowl, and of course the circumstances of that year with 9-11 happening and U2 performing at halftime — that was pretty unbelievable.”