The New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins have flown 4,624 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to meet for the 12th time in their history. This will be the second time that the Saints will be playing in England, the first coming in 2008, a 37-32 victory over the then San Diego Chargers. The Dolphins will be playing in England for the 4th time in their history, going 1-2 in their other appearances.
Miami leads the all-time series against the Saints, with a 6-5 record. The last time these two met was a Sunday night game played in New Orleans during the 2013 season, a 38-17 Saints victory. The first meeting between the two occurred on November 15, 1970, in Miami, FL., resulting in a 21-10 Dolphins win. It was the first of 3 straight losses for the Saints against Miami, with the next two coming in 1974 and 1980. (In an odd historical note: the Dolphins scored 21 points in all three victories).
The first time the Saints beat the Dolphins was on October 2, 1983. The game was played in the Louisiana Superdome. Miami was the defending AFC champion, but lost to New Orleans that day, 17-7. Noteworthy about that game was the fact that a young rookie quarterback named Dan Marino came on in relief of Miami starter David Woodley for the second time in three weeks. Marino played well enough that he was named the starting quarterback the following week, embarking on a 17-year Hall of Fame career. The Saints would face Marino three more times during his career, going 1-2 in those contests.
Miami's starting quarterback this Sunday will be Jay Cutler. The Saints have faced Cutler four times, losing when he was the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos in 2008, and defeating him three times as starting quarterback of the Chicago Bears.
This game is obviously being played at a neutral site, but the Dolphins are designated as the "home" team. The Saints are 1-3 against the Dolphins in Miami, but their lone victory was a thrilling, come-from-behind 46-34 victory during the 2009 season. The Saints would make a trip back to the city of Miami later that year, defeating the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. Miami's first Super Bowl trip was made to the city of New Orleans, losing Super Bowl VI to the Dallas Cowboys, 24-3 in Tulane Stadium following the 1971 season.
Players changing teams is a common occurrence in today's NFL, but a few big names have moved from the Saints to the Dolphins since the beginning of the millennium. Running back Ricky Williams, who New Orleans famously gave up their entire 1999 draft to obtain, was traded to the Dolphins in 2002 for two 1st round draft picks after three seasons of 3,129 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns as a Saint. Williams would go on to play 7 years in Miami, rushing for 6,436 yards and 48 scores.
The year after Williams left Miami, the Dolphins acquired another high profile Saints running back. Reggie Bush had been the No. 2 overall selection by the Saints in the 2006 draft, and had 4,232 yards from scrimmage and 29 offensive touchdowns in five years with New Orleans before signing with Miami as a free agent in 2011. Bush had nearly as many rushing yards in two seasons as a Dolphin (2,072) than he did in five years with New Orleans.
The Saints dealt another productive offensive weapon to Miami in the 2015 offseason. Wide receiver Kenny Stills had 95 catches for 1,572 yards and 8 touchdowns in his first two years in the league with New Orleans, but was traded to Miami for a 3rd round draft pick and oft-injured linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Stills will be on the field in tomorrow's game against New Orleans, and joining him in a Dolphins uniform will be two other names very familiar to Saints fans.
Offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod played his first six years in the league with New Orleans, and is in his second year with Miami after 3 years with the Chicago Bears. Former Saints 1st round pick Stephone Anthony was an All-Rookie performer with the team in 2015, leading the team in tackles. After regressing a year ago and struggling this preseason, the Saints traded him to Miami less than two weeks ago for a mid-round draft pick.
The most significant historical link between these two franchises is another player that will also be on the field this Sunday. Quarterback Drew Brees became a free agent after the 2005 season, after five years with the San Diego Chargers. Brees had suffered a serious shoulder injury in his final game with San Diego, and was attracting little interest throughout the league. The two teams most interested in him were the Dolphins and Saints.
New Orleans was coming off a 3-13 season, starting over with an unproven head coach named Sean Payton, and a city that had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Brees seemed set to sign a new deal with the Dolphins, but at the last moment, Miami altered their contract offer, then decided to move in a different direction, instead trading for Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper and leaving Brees to sign with the Saints. Culpepper played just one season in Miami, while Payton and Brees changed New Orleans sports history, also owning a 2-0 record against the Dolphins.
Miami will be playing their 3rd straight game on the road to begin this season, and are coming off a 20-6 rout by the lowly New York Jets. They have a handful of dangerous offensive weapons that New Orleans will be challenged by, but have struggled to move the ball and protect quarterback Jay Cutler, who has been prone to big mistakes throughout his career. The Dolphins talented running back, Jay Ajayi, could also be limited in this game with a knee injury.
The Saints could be riding a wave of momentum following their 34-13 road victory against the Carolina Panthers last week. Their passing game matches up extremely well against a Miami defense that struggles in coverage, and the Saints defense has historically played very well against Cutler.
Prediction: Saints 31, Dolphins 21
Who wins the Battle of London this Sunday?
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