Saints, Pats Cable’s Second Most-Watched Program Ever

The New Orleans Saints on Monday night put on a clinic against the visiting New England Patriots, routing Bill Belichick’s charges in a 38-17 offensive showcase that drew a national TV audience of 21.4 million viewers.

Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings, ESPN’s 13th Monday Night Football telecast of the 2009-10 NFL season now ranks as the second most-watched program in cable history. The Saints’ romp trails only the Oct. 5 MNF grudge match between the Vikings and Packers, which drew a record-smashing 21.8 million total viewers.

Through the first 12 weeks of the season, ESPN’s MNF is averaging 14.6 million total viewers, up 19 percent from last season.

In leading the Saints to an 11-0 record, QB Drew Brees connected on five touchdown throws and passed for 371 yards, completing 18 of 23 attempts. In so doing, he compiled a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating.

The Saints’ big win drew a combined 66.7 rating/84 share in New Orleans (23.3 on ESPN and 43.4 on WDSU-NBC). The team has appeared in 10 nationally televised prime time games since 2006, tying it with the Washington Redskins at No. 11 among the 32 NFL franchises. Over the same period, the Patriots have played in 14 prime time games, putting them in a tie for fourth with the San Diego Chargers.