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Friday, October 11, 2013
Highlighting Patriots-Saints connections

By Field Yates

We'll use this space each week to highlight players, coaches and executives from the Patriots' upcoming opponent who have connections to the team. This week, a pair of newcomers to the Saints in 2013 lead the way.

Tight end Benjamin Watson. The second of the Patriots' first-round picks in 2004, Watson is now with his third team, having spent multiple years in Cleveland with the Browns, with whom he signed a free agent contract to depart New England. Always a gifted athlete, Watson provides complementary support to Jimmy Graham. He has started two of five games this season, catching five total passes for 49 yards and one touchdown.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. A member of the Patriots staff as the linebackers coach during the team's first Super Bowl-winning season, Ryan has had notable performances against the Patriots in the past. Specifically, he guided a standout defensive effort with the Browns when the team was struggling during the 2010 season. Ryan's defense gave Tom Brady all kinds of fits, limiting him to 224 yards on 19-of-36 passing in a resounding 34-14 win for the Browns. A year after allowing more yards than any other defense in NFL history, the Saints are surrendering the 11th-fewest per game this season and are fourth in scoring defense, yielding just 14.6 points per game. Ryan has been a big part of the turnaround.