Back to the road: The Saints (10-3) were awesome Sunday night. And even more impressive than the performance itself was the resilience they showed by bouncing back on a short week, just six nights after a blowout loss at Seattle.
But the Saints know full well that this week’s narrative won’t be about celebrating their greatness. It will be about questioning their ability to take this same show on the road. They’ve got to play at the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, followed by a trip to Carolina in Week 16.
The Saints clearly haven’t been the same team away from the Superdome this season. They’re 7-0 at home and 3-3 on the road, where they’ve been outscored 135-113. The St. Louis game should be manageable, since it’s in a dome and the Rams are a 5-8 team. But quarterback Drew Brees was one of many players who cautioned that the Saints can’t afford a letdown.
“They’re a very tough team in that dome, too,” Brees said. “The times that we’ve had to travel there, ’09 we barely squeaked out of there with a win, and they were a winless team at the time, and ’11 they beat the brakes off of us. ... So we’re gonna need our best week of preparation and our best performance. We want to keep this thing rollin’.”
All-time great: Brees was awesome Sunday, too, on a night when he made history. Brees, who threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns, became the first quarterback in NFL history with eight consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. He also became the fifth quarterback to reach 50,000 career yards (joining Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and John Elway).
“We were kidding him that a lot of places, if the quarterback hits 50,000 yards, they would have fireworks, stop the game. And we just kind of had a little nod and an ‘atta boy,’” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “But that is a pretty unique feat when you look at the history of our league. ... To be in that class of [five] people now really hits on his consistency, his durability, his availability, along with his skill set.”
Run game passed over: Once again, the Saints relied heavily on their passing game (45 dropbacks versus 14 called runs). But Payton and Brees both said that was the plan going in -- and it was hard to fault that plan when the Saints had so much success. Payton said the Saints saw more man coverage than expected -- and he said he thought Carolina got away with some pass interference that wasn’t called. But the Saints were still able to get their receivers involved more than usual. Marques Colston was especially outstanding with nine catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns (more on him later today).
The more-dominant D: The Panthers’ defense was more hyped going into this game. But the Saints’ defense was the dominant one, allowing just 239 yards and 13 points. Outside linebacker Junior Galette (three sacks) and end Cameron Jordan (two sacks) were especially dynamic. And the Saints started to steamroll the Panthers once they were playing with a big lead. But their two biggest moments came early when they forced Carolina to settle for field goals on its first two drives (a sack by Galette, a tackle for loss by safety Malcolm Jenkins and blitz pressure near the end zone were the three biggest plays).