<
>

Colston shut out; Brees passes Elway

CLEVELAND -- For the first time in 87 games, New Orleans Saints receiver Marques Colston didn't catch a pass.

The leading receiver in franchise history had caught at least one pass in every game he played since Week 7 of the 2008 season (when he was limited while coming back from a hand injury).

But in Sunday's 26-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns, Colston wasn't even targeted once while playing the entire game.

It's been a rough season so far for Colston, whose overtime fumble led to the Atlanta Falcons' game-winning field goal last week. But Colston hardly deserves any singular blame in this one.

The Browns made it their mission to shut down New Orleans' downfield passing game. At times Cleveland had seven defensive backs on the field at once -- a tactic that frustrated Drew Brees into a sack and interception in the first half.

Ultimately, the Saints made the Browns pay by running the ball for a total of 174 yards and completing 10 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns to tight end Jimmy Graham. But they had to find a way to do it without their wide receivers.

Fellow receiver Brandin Cooks was also held to three catches for 17 yards (after being held to one catch for one yard through three quarters). The Saints' four receivers combined for a total of nine catches for 79 yards.

When Brees was asked why the Saints didn't lean even more heavily on the running game, he offered some interesting insight.

The Saints often script their first 15 plays or so, intentionally mixing formations and personnel groups to gain as much information as possible about defenses. Then they adjust based on where they see chances to exploit weaknesses. It's one of Sean Payton's great strengths.

That happened again Sunday -- it just took a little longer since the Browns' defense was equally multiple with looks and personnel groupings.

"Early on, you're just trying to figure out who's who," said Brees, who said the Saints' early communication problems and mistakes like a bobbled snap and sack "gave them reasons to get them hyped up and get the crowd involved" before the Saints started to "right the ship."

"Here's the thing. We got to it," Brees said of the run game. "It didn't necessarily start off seven DBs. You know, we're varied in our personnel groups. We're bringing in two halfbacks at times, three tight ends, four wide receivers. We do a lot of stuff.

"And then I'd say they were as multiple on defense as we were on offense. There's times where we'd have three tight ends in the game and then another time they'd play nickel and then even dime. You just had to just be aware, have good communication. Then I feel like once we got past the first quarter, we really had a good beat on that. And obviously the game was well within reach."

Sure enough, here's how the Saints' drives ended, in order:

  • Punt (1 yard)

  • Punt (-2 yards)

  • Punt (10 yards)

  • Punt (24 yards)

  • Field goal (73 yards)

  • Interception (12 yards)

  • Touchdown (85 yards)

  • Touchdown (57 yards)

  • Touchdown (80 yards)

  • Punt (52 yards)

Brees passes Elway: It's fair to assume Brees didn't relish the fact that he passed John Elway for fourth place on the NFL's all-time passing yardage chart. But I can't say for sure since no one bothered to ask him. Brees has now thrown for 51,651 yards.

It will be a couple years before Brees cracks the top three, though (Brett Favre 71,838, Peyton Manning 65,475 and counting, Dan Marino 61,361).

Odds against 0-2 teams: Brees always talks about relishing the idea of defying the odds and doing things teams haven't done before. Well, he's got that chance now that the Saints are 0-2. According to ESPN Stats & Information, only 12 percent of teams that started 0-2 since 1990 made the playoffs (23 of 198).

The Saints have started 0-2 twice since Brees has been in New Orleans -- in 2007 and in 2012 (when Payton was suspended). In both cases, they started 0-4.

I'm willing to bet that won't happen with their home opener coming next week against the Minnesota Vikings in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where New Orleans went 8-0 last year. It's a should-win game and a must-win game.

Worth noting: This was the first time with Payton coaching (not counting 2012) that the Saints had lost a game when rushing for at least 150 yards. They're now 21-1.

Saints running back Mark Ingram became just the fourth Saints player to score three touchdowns in the first two weeks of a season (Danny Abramowicz 1971, Chuck Muncie 1977, Colston 2009).