|Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT||Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling||Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets||Smart Era Gets Off to a Good Start with Win over T’wolves|
New England has seen the best this season. They have played more undefeated teams then any other team thus far. Once more, the Patriots will look to topple a perfect team and give them the first loss of the season. However, this is not your average squad. The New Orleans Saints are one of the best teams in the league. Their offense is near unstoppable and their defense has improved, making them a Super Bowl contender. The Monday night showdown will be explosive and a possible matchup in February.
They are one of the best offensive teams in the history of the NFL. The Saints have outscored every other team and have crushed their opponents week in, week out to go 10-0 for the first time in team history. At the helm is Drew Brees, who is making his case for MVP. Brees currently has a league-leading 22 touchdowns to only nine interceptions and a quarterback rating of 105.8. He is complemented by an armory of receivers and backs. Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem all share the load in making big catches down the field. Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and dual-threat Reggie Bush all have speed to burn defenders and keep the offensive rolling. Coach Sean Payton looks like coach of the year material and has his team playing like champions.
During this off-season, The Saints’ most important addition was defensive coordinator Greg Williams. The new and improved New Orleans D is leading the league in interceptions. Darren Sharper is the king of their secondary with a league leading seven interceptions, over a third of the teams 20 snares. The defense is stacked all around with men like Charles Grant and Will Smith up front, Jonathan Vilma and Scott Fujita in the middle and Roman Harper and Tracy Porter in the secondary. This is no longer the weak link for the team and makes the Saint one of the most dangerous teams in the league.
It’s hard to believe, but this is the first time the Patriots will play in the Superdome since their first Super Bowl victory. There will be memories and replays of Adam Vinatieri’s final kick all pregame. There could also be talk of last time these two teams met, all the way back in 2005. The week 11 matchup saw New England squeak by with a 24-17 victory on a last minute interception. Throw all history away. Wait? How’s this for memories. Think back to another Patriots Super Bowl in New Orleans. Remember Super Bowl XX? The 46-10 beat down by the Bears? The Patriots play better angry and should use that game as motivation.
The Saints are not a team where you can just let them go and hope to win the game by attacking their defense. Allowing Drew Brees any time to work can result in 50 point hole. Tom Brady and the New England offense can do their best to match it, but playing on turf will give New Orleans the speed they need to beat you at both ends, especially in the passing game. The Saints play an all around game. However, there is one weakness.
In the few close game the Saints have played this season, and few is the key word, the best way to stop them is to keep the offense off the field. Controlling the clock is a must and New England can do it in a variety of ways. Allow Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk to carry the ball more often can bring the clock down and let Drew Brees keep his bench seat warm. The other way are short passes. Wes Welker and Julien Edelman should see a lot of action in the slot for short passes. The only way to stop the Saints offense is to keep them on the sidelines and New England can do that better then any other team.
New England needs to focus on the Saints passing game. They are more deadly when they pass the ball, so then why focus on the running game? By stopping the running game early, the Saints will abandon it altogether. With Reggie Bush looking to be out for the game, the Saints will deliver a Thomas-Bell package. New Orleans is one of the best running teams in the league averaging over 150 rushing yards a game. Although they make their money on the pass, they are allowed single coverage down field because teams have to respect the run.
Still, they are not a long distance running team. Thomas and Bell have had rushed for over 30 yards just three times this season. They get most of their yards on five yard carries, typically on first downs. Letting Vince Wilfork clog the middle and stopping the backs at the line will make the Saints one dimensional. By forcing them to strictly pass, it could cause more mistakes, although it is not a guarantee that it will stop Brees.
Randy Moss has to be angry. He has heard nonstop about how Derelle Revis controlled him last week. In the last three weeks, Moss went for 147 yards, 179 yard and then 34. He was heating up, but the only thing people talk about is how he was contained for one game. That has to be hard for one of the games elite wide receivers.
So what happens when a superstar gets angry? They tend to explode, sometimes in a bad way, other times it’s good. The Saints will probably put Darren Sharper on Moss all game, which makes for a marquee match-up. The flaw? Sharper goes for the interception too often and allows big gains at times. You can not get into a shootout, but taking chances down the field need to happen to keep the Saints defense in check. Look for Moss in single coverage to get all throws going his way and perhaps come big plays here and there.
The Saints will be playing this game like its a championship match, so why shouldn’t New England play the same way? This is a potential matchup for the big game and the Patriots need to make a point that if you want the Lombardi trophy, you will have to go through them. Match their intensity. Play your game. Most importantly, act like if you lose this game, the season will be over. Of course it is just a regular season game, but a win will feel like a championship in its own right.
The Saints are probably the best team in the NFL. Still, many are picking New England to roll all over them, some aren’t even calling it close. That might make the Saints hungrier. Even though New England needs to avoid going shot for shot, the game will most likely go that route. If it happens, it will be almost impossible for the Patriots to walk away with their heads held high. New Orleans 34 – New England 30
Tags: Darren Sharper, Drew Brees, Jeremy Shockey, Julien Edelman, Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney, Marques Coltson, Mike Bell, Patriots, Pierre Thomas, Randy Moss, Reggie Bush, Robert Meachem, Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Wes Welker