Gus Kattengell’s Saints Report — Patriots Game
The New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots are having solid starts to the 2013 NFL season. Head coach Sean Payton has helped lead the Black and Gold to the only undefeated record in the NFC. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s team is 4-1 on the season and have a one game lead on the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East. You get a different feeling though looking at both teams at this point of the season.
A week ago the Saints put together their most complete game in a win at Chicago. The season started with a pair of nail bitters as the defense led the way to victory. Against Arizona and Miami, the offense finally found it’s rhythm and combined with the play of the defense put back to back impressive and convincing wins together. The team is steadily improving week to week.
New England has won four games but most of them have not come easy. Week 1 saw a 23-21 close win at Buffalo, followed by a 13-10 win at home against the Jets. The pair of wins coming against rookie quarterbacks. A week later it was a 23-3 win against a Tampa Bay team that has sense released then starting quarterback Josh Freeman. The final game of September saw the Pats win at Atlanta 30-23 in a game decided in the fourth quarter and last week they lost 13-6 at Cincinnati.
The Saints are far from being perfect as their running game still has things left to be desired, ranked 26th at just 77.8 yards an outing, but Payton has found ways in his offense to make up for the shortcomings with the short passing game. The play of tight end Jimmy Graham has also helped over game a less than stellar running attack by leading the NFL in receiving yards with 593 and is tied for second with 37 catches and six touchdowns. Overall the Saints are ranked second in the NFL with 327.2 yards per game. Defensively, the Saints continue to do well ranked 12th against the pass giving up 221.8 yards and 18th against the run yielding 108.6 yards a game.
Tom Brady and the Patriots offense on the other hand have struggled to put up the points and find the consistency we are accustomed to seeing in New England. Injuries to tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Stevan Ridley and receiver Danny Amendola haven’t helped. The Patriots rank 21st over in the NFL in passing averaging 227 yards per game and are 14th in rushing grinding out 116.4 yards per game. New England’s defense has been middle of the pack giving up 228.6 yards a game good for 14th overall and is 23rd overall against the run with 116.4 yards a game given up.
THE BELICHICK EXPERIENCE
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is known for his defensive mind. It’ll be curious to see how what he comes up with to try and stop the league’s leading receiver in Graham. Two weeks ago in Atlanta in a key situation of the game Belichick put two defenders at the line down near the goal line on Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez and basically kept him from getting off the line of scrimmage. The Saints have shown that if you try and stop Graham they’ll simply look elsewhere. The next two leading pass catchers for the Saints well aren’t receivers. Running back Pierre Thomas is next with 28 grabs, following by running back Darren Sproles with 26. If New England commits to keeping two defenders on Graham it opens up the rest of the field for those backs or other receivers. Belichick also knows he must put pressure on quarterback Drew Brees to try and minimize the time he has to survey the field and find the open mind. Therein lies his dilemma. Pressure and Brees if he picks it up loves man on man coverage. Play coverage and Brees has shown he will be patient and take what you give him. New England could very well pick their spots to pressure by likely go with the bend not break philosophy and hope to hold the Saints to field goals instead of touchdowns.
Saints head coach Sean Payton knew last week was a big game to see where his team was at this point of the season. The victory and manner by which it came showed that this is a good football team. Are they a great team however? Already with a four-game NFC South Division lead, the Saints appear playoff bound, but are they a team that can contend for an NFC Championship and trip to the Super Bowl? A win Sunday won’t guarantee that but it could go a long way to proving they have what it takes.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees said earlier this week that the team’s 38-17 win over the Patriots in 2009 was the game the team said okay we can go all the way. That game was in late November and so much of the season was in the books, still this has a similar although not identical tone. A win Sunday would make the team 6-0 heading into the bye week. The Bills and Jets wait after a week of rest followed by the beginning of the gauntlet. Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta on a short week followed by Seattle. The four game stretch may have seemed tougher a month ago but it is no cake walk. Seattle is playing good ball and you want to have to just win a pair of games in the comfort of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to earn a trip to New York rather than travel to say Seattle.
Payton pushed back practice by an hour all three days of work and the team leaves Friday a day earlier than normal for New England. Payton says it’s to cut down on the long flight. I think it has more to do perhaps with trying to find any edge possible and by preparing his team to play at a later time like eastern time and getting the body used to the late afternoon kickoff Sunday, hey it helps do it right?
WHAT I THINK
A fast start will be key on Sunday. New England quarterback Tom Brady has already showed visible signs of frustrations with a receiving group that has dropped balls and simply isn’t as talented as ones he’s had in the past. The Patriots are banged up at running back so it’s not like they can depend on that to help him out. The last thing Belichick wants is a shoot out against a Saints defense that has shown the ability to pressure with just the defensive line. The Bengals sacked Brady four times last week. I don’t see why the Saints shouldn’t be able to get to Brady.
An X-factor as well could be the Ryan-effect. Rex Ryan as head coach of the New York Jets plays the Patriots twice a year. There is no doubt brother and Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan hasn’t placed a call with Rex happily sharing things that have worked to the Jets advantage.
Call me crazy but I feel the Saints appear to be the team steadily improving and having the most talent. It is on the road and a key game for the Patriots. The Saints however with a win could go a long way with in pretty much putting the division to bed with a win and more importantly keep ahead of Seattle.
New Orleans has too many weapons and I simply don’t see the Saints defense doing something it hasn’t done through five games this season and that is get lit up. Saints 31 – Patriots 17.