The New Orleans Saints are no strangers to high-profile games over the past five years. But they still insist that it’s a big deal to play on Monday Night Football, especially at home inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“Definitely. I mean, it’s Monday Night Football, and you’re the only show on,” said tight end Jimmy Graham, whose 3-0 Saints will host the 3-0 Miami Dolphins tonight on ESPN. “You’ve got [Jon] Gruden saying his stuff, and you know the whole world is watching. And our coaches always talk about, it’s not about the big stage, it’s about having the opportunity to show the people who raised you and the people that helped you get to this point and show them what you can do on national TV.”
The Saints obviously respond well to the spotlight. They’ve won eight straight games on "Monday Night Football," dating back to 2008, which is the longest active streak in the NFL. They’ve also won a total of 10 consecutive prime-time games at home, including the playoffs.
Quarterback Drew Brees has been especially dominant on Monday nights. During the eight-game win streak, he’s thrown for 308.4 yards per game, 24 touchdowns, five interceptions and a completion percentage of 71.1.
“They are always big games,” Brees said when asked why Monday nights seem to bring out the best in him and his team. “They are always against very good opponents. They are always very meaningful just from the standpoint of it’s in your division or you’re playing a very good team or it’s the battle of the unbeatens or whatever it might be. It seems like there’s always been something surrounding that game besides just playing in prime time.
“And then throw in that element. You’re the only game on TV. That’s kind of what you live for, that opportunity to showcase your team and your town. You know, we’ve had the fortune of having a lot of those games in the Superdome, and they’re showing clips of the city and people out and about having a good time. I think it’s just a great showcase of our city and the dome and just of the atmosphere. It’s like the tourism bureau paid for the spot.”
For many on the Saints roster, tonight will actually mark their "Monday Night Football" debut -- bringing a whole other level of excitement into the fold.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I mean, Monday night,” Saints rookie Kenny Vaccaro said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I just want to see myself get introduced. I want to re-watch the clips, when I get to say my name and school. I’ve looked forward to that my whole life.”
MOONLIGHTING: Speaking of Gruden, the "Monday Night Football" analyst took time while he was in New Orleans this weekend to serve as master of ceremonies for close friend Sean Payton’s annual Black and Gold Gala inside the Superdome. Country star Kenny Chesney also performed for the guests during the marquee event to benefit Payton’s Play It Forward Foundation.
PAYING IT FORWARD: A neat story from NewOrleansSaints.com about how Robert Meachem got back his touchdown ball from last Sunday’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Meachem flipped the ball to one fan, who then passed it on to a nun who was sitting nearby. But when she later heard how much the ball meant to Meachem, she contacted the Saints to give it back. Both fans got to meet Meachem and receive autographed balls in return.
Also worth reading this weekend:
The Advocate’s Sheldon Mickles on how the Saints’ last game against the Dolphins in 2009 ago helped forge them as Super Bowl champions that year.
Times-Picayune columnist Peter Finney on a tough three-game stretch that will kick off for the Saints tonight.
The Associated Press’ Brett Martel on how well Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is playing this year -- especially when he gets angry.