No. 1 offense can lift Saints past Colts
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints’ top-ranked offense will
be like nothing the Indianapolis Colts have faced in these
Meanwhile, the Saints’ big-play defense has demonstrated a
penchant for making clutch stops and producing game-changing
turnovers all season long. Just ask Brett Favre.
The Peyton Manning-led Colts are five-point favorites in
Sunday’s Super Bowl. Yet the Saints have shown – during a 13-3
regular season and a pair of playoff wins over teams with great
quarterbacks – that they have what it takes to bring New Orleans
its first NFL championship on Sunday night.
“We’re playing and expecting to win,” tight end Jeremy Shockey
said this week. “It would be great for the city.”
Indeed, it’s about more than matchups and statistics. Football
is an emotional game, and the Saints are motivated by the higher
calling of bringing happiness to a fan base that has seen a lot of
losing in the previous 42 years and a lot of suffering since
Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The difference this year is that New Orleans has the talent on
both sides of the ball to make its emotional edge matter.
The Saints passed for 272.2 yards per game – the fourth-highest
average in the league – and did so without relying on a particular
receiver. Marques Colston led the Saints with 1,074 yards receiving
and nine TD catches, but the 6-foot-4 target doesn’t have to have a
big game for New Orleans to win. Deep threats Devery Henderson and
Robert Meachem can strike without warning.
If star tight end Jeremy Shockey is covered, Brees won’t
hesitate to throw to tight end David Thomas.
Lance Moore, the Saints’ leading receiver last season, can give
defenses fits in the slot.
“I love my receiving corps. As a group, they are the best in
the league,” Brees said. “Each one of them has some very unique
Reggie Bush had 47 catches during the regular season and didn’t
just grab short tosses coming out of the back field. He’ll line up
in the slot or out wide.
Pierre Thomas can turn a screen pass into a big play as well as
anyone. Exhibit A would be his slashing 38-yard touchdown against
Minnesota in the NFC title game.
The Colts faced two of the NFL’s youngest and least experienced
quarterbacks in their previous two postseason wins.
Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and the New York Jets’ Mark Sanchez don’t
posses the experience or resume of Brees, who has thrown for more
yards than any NFL quarterback during the past four seasons.
Although Brees’ passing total dropped from 5,069 yards to 4,388
this season, it wasn’t because he got worse. The Saints’ running
game got better – sixth in the NFL with 131.6 yards per game –
allowing them to resort to a clock-killing ground game after they’d
piled up double-digit leads.
Including the playoffs, 10 of the Saints’ 15 wins have come by
double digits. That may seem odd for a team with a defense that
ranked 25th in the league in yards allowed, but that same defense
has a knack for making critical stops deep and forcing turnovers.
The Saints have seven takeaways in their two playoff wins so
Even if Manning avoids interceptions, receivers and running
backs must hold onto the ball. Saints defenders hit hard and rip at
balls like bullies on a playground.
“All my life I’ve been trying to speed players up, toughen
players up, nasty players up,” defensive coordinator Gregg
It shows. His defense doesn’t mind risking a 15-yard roughing
penalty in the pursuit of rattling a quarterback’s bones, as
Anthony Hargrove did two weeks ago when he picked up Favre and
drove him into the turf.
Manning doesn’t get sacked often. It doesn’t mean he won’t get
The Saints can find a way to slow him enough to let Brees and
the offense score the most – and bring the Lombardi Trophy to the