The best offense in football
|11.27.09 at 11:47 am ET|
FOXBORO — How good is the New Orleans offense?
Tom Brady may be the best defense the Patriots have. And if there was ever a quarterback who could appreciate being on the roll Drew Brees and the Saints are on, it would be the man who threw more touchdown passes in a single season (50) than anyone in NFL history.
“That’s important,” Brady said of playing keep-away from Brees and the Saints. “Usually, the best defense for a great offense is our offense keeping possession of it. They get the ball on long fields, short fields and score quickly. They’ve been down against Miami — I don’t know if it was 24-3 or something like that — and they were running the clock out with eight minutes left in the third quarter.
“So it’s a dangerous team and offensively we’re going to have to posses the ball and be good on third down, certainly get the ball in in the red area, which is something that was a little better last week. That’s something that we’ve got to try to do more consistently. That’s going to be a big challenge for our offense.”
The Saints rank first in the NFL in points (369) and yards per game (420.5). And Drew Brees is among the leaders in NFL MVP consideration, the Saints have three running back that can give opponents fits. And that may be the single biggest different aspect between these Saints and the ’07 Patriots.
Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush each have five rushing touchdowns and Mike Bell has four. Thomas and Bush each average over five yards a carry while Bell is averaging 4.5 yards on every carry.
“They run a very complex offense with all the different personnel groups you could imagine and all the formations,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “If we took the other 15 games we play and put all the formations and personnel groups together, it probably would be about the same as the Saints. It’s that many. So they get you one everything. They run mis-directions, they run reverses, they run boots, they run power plays, they run draw plays, they run bubble screens.”
Simply put, this Saints offense is one that could take a lot of turkey time away from Belichick as he tries to think of everything the Monday night opponent could throw at the Pats.
“You name it, they run it. They have a very diverse attack. As I said, they use different backs, they use different receivers, they use different tight ends. They mix up the formations. You can’t really draw a beat on them because there are too many different things happening. You have to try to boil it down and categorize it. You just don’t get a look at the formation like you do with a lot of teams. Over the course of 70 plays, there are hardly any repeat formations in the game. It’s hard. Do they run mis-directions? Yeah, they run everything. You can’t name a play they don’t run. Honestly, I can’t think of one.”
When they do pass, Brees has an amazing array of receivers from which to choose. The Saints have nine receivers in double figures in receptions, led by Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey. Colston and Robert Meachem have emerged as their touchdown makers, each tied with six.
“You’ve got to be careful of them matching up. They definitely put a lot of pressure on you on that. If you match up with them, you’ve got to do a good job with it. They don’t make it easy for you. And it’s not just getting the right people on the field, but then it’s also finding them because you don’t know where they are going to be. They mix that up a lot, too. They do a good job formationing, even the normal formation that looks the same — they vary the receiver splits, they move the tight end around — so the same formation can look different on 10 different plays, it really can.”
Pats corner Jonathan Wilhite believes having faced Peyton Manning and the Colts two weeks ago could come in handy under the dome on Monday.
“I think it will help a lot,” Wilhite said. “We’ve played against some good teams this year and some teams that can move the ball around. But this is going to be a team that can beat you right off the start. Being in the NFL, every week you’ve got to be ready to go, but this is one of those weeks that you have to study a little more and watch a little more film. This game, everybody is going to be watching us. This is going to be the game to make a stand.”
Safety Brandon Meriweather, who will be backing up Wilhite and other Pats defense backs, has a slightly different take.
“Indianapolis does one thing great,” he said. “This team does everything else great. But just going into that atmosphere and taking what we took from that game, which was tremendous. [It was] not necessarily playing against that team that will help us against this team that much, but some of the things that we took out of that game will.”
Sean Payton is in fourth season as the head coach in New Orleans. He came to New Orleans the same time Brees came to town. It’s been a marriage made in football heaven ever since, with Brees re-inventing his career after five seasons in San Diego. The Saints offense is the product of a great working relationship between the two.
“I think there’s some change year to year with personnel that you’ve got to be willing to adjust with,” Payton said. “Drew is somebody who studies the game very hard and allows us to do certain things. Each year, I don’t think you ever quite pick up where you left off, you go back to the beginning, then you’re somewhat flexible with change. Heath Evans was certainly a large part of what we were doing early in the season, then with his injury you make changes.We’ve been able to run that ball better this year than we have in past. The continuity at quarterback I think is important.
Payton acknowledged that Brees is the biggest reason the offense has evolved into the complex machine that is destroying NFL defenses. And it’s what the Payton and the Saints envisioned when they acquired him before the 2006 NFL draft.
“What happened initially, there was probably a month and a half where we were evaluating our options and looking at the draft. And it wasn’t until probably after the Combine that all of a sudden, the topic of Brees came up and that he was going to be released by San Diego. We had to spend the time evaluating injury, like everyone. At that time, there weren’t a lot of people jumping on buses to come here in ’06, it was right after Katrina.
“He and his wife had taken their visit and then gone to Miami. There was some risk in regard to the injury. Some of the things that we just talked about, that we looked at with Tom and Drew, you’re looking for somebody that’s going to rehab and do all the things necessary to get healthy. I think it was our good fortune as an organization that we were able to secure him. He did a great job of rehabbing his shoulder.”
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