NEW ORLEANS -- While the Patriots haven't visited the Superdome for a regular-season game against the Saints in more than a decade, there will be no shortage of nostalgia when New England steps onto the field this evening.
The Superdome played host to Super Bowl XXXVI, when the Patriots, 14-point underdogs to the St. Louis Rams and their Greatest Show on Turf offense, emerged with the first of three Super Bowl titles in four years with a stunning 20-17 triumph.
"Mr. [Robert] Kraft came and talked to the team [Wednesday] morning about that and he talked about the special memories of that place," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. "You never forget that day. That was pretty unbelievable for all of us. A lot of us ... you’re 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."
Coach Bill Belichick said it's likely the setting will bring back memories, but seeing the undefeated opponent across the field Monday will prevent the Patriots from making more than a quick jog down memory lane.
"I’m sure for a moment, there’s certainly a lot of fond memories for Super Bowl XXXVI there, but the Saints will bring it back to reality quickly," said Belichick. "They’re a really good football team and 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."
Only four players remain from the 2001 Super Bowl team in Brady, running back Kevin Faulk, and offensive linemen Stephen Neal and Matt Light. But Brady suggested that even the newest Patriots can appreciate the history in this building.
"We’ve had a lot of new guys come and go, but [the new players are] part of the tradition now," said Brady. "When you wear that uniform you kind of take on everything that this team has been a part of, whether you were here or whether you weren’t here. It’s a great environment, a historic place to play, and I think we’re all excited about getting down there."
The Patriots have beaten the Saints in all three meetings at the Superdome, the last on Oct. 4, 1998. And while this is New England's first visit since Super Bowl XXXVI, it should be noted that not all the memories inside this building are pleasant.
The Patriots were stomped by the Bears, 46-10, in Super Bowl XX on Jan. 26, 1986, and fell to the Green Bay Packers, 35-21, in Super Bowl XXXI on Jan. 26, 1997.
Belichick, who was the Patriots' assistant head coach under Bill Parcells during Super Bowl XXXI, isn't likely to spend much time thinking about Desmond Howard and Reggie White. Not when he's got Reggie Bush and Will Smith to contemplate Monday night.