Four years ago, something special happened for the New Orleans Saints, starting with their Week 1 contest against the Cleveland Browns: they turned their franchise around.
The 2006 season saw the debut of QB Drew Brees, RB Reggie Bush, and WR Marques Colston for the Saints, en route to a division title. Then, the Browns were just facing a team that seemed like it had some offensive potential. Now, they are facing the defending Super Bowl Champions and one of the best offenses in the NFL.
The Browns have had a rough start to the NFL season, from having to play tough teams like the Ravens, Falcons, and Steelers. None of those teams had an "elite" offense, which is a category I would place Brees and company in. Why does that present a problem? Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, and Ben Roethlisberger have all connected on deep passes for touchdowns against the Browns' secondary, usually when the team sends an all-out blitz.
When you look at Drew Brees, he loves to throw the deep ball in that offense. He doesn't care if the defense knows it's coming. If the opposing team scores a touchdown, it's not out of the question that he will come out and go for the 80-yard touchdown pass on the first offensive play with success.
This season, the Saints' numbers are down a little bit offensively. Let's take a look at the yards per catch averages for the Saints' receivers this year versus last year (and you do have to look at all of the receivers, because each guy could be the team's 100-yard receiver in any given week):
Marques Colston: 15.3 (2009) vs. 11.3 (2010)
Devery Henderson: 15.8 (2009) vs. 12.3 (2010)
Robert Meachem: 16.0 (2009) vs. 13.0 (2010)
Lance Moore: 10.9 (2009) vs. 16.1 (2010)
- Jeremy Shockey: 11.9 (2009) vs. 9.9 (2010)
With the exception of Moore, all of the receivers' numbers are a bit down from last year, primarily because New Orleans hasn't been hitting the deep ball as often. As of last week, I think the Saints got back to their style of offense, as they scored 30 points or more for the first time this season. In defeating Tampa Bay, Brees connected on touchdown passes of 41 yards (on 2nd and 14) and 40 yards (on 3rd and 7). Those touchdowns came on the Saints' first two series, and after they built their massive lead, they just ran the ball in the second half.
When the Saints beat the Panthers narrowly a couple of weeks ago, Brees' longest pass of the game went for just 20 yards. I won't even bring up their loss against the Arizona Cardinals, because that came had so many weird fumbles and touchdowns that it almost seems like an anomaly -- one that we can't expect to happen this week in New Orleans.
The Saints aren't known to be an offense that comes out and tries to trick you with a clever gameplan. They just go right at you in the passing game, and it's up to your defense to find a way to prevent the big plays. Rob Ryan hasn't shown any signs of stopping the all-out-blitz, and I don't have faith in any of our cornerbacks right now in defending a one-on-one deep pass between Brees and one of his receivers.
Do you think Ryan will tone down the all-out blitz against the Saints? I think the correct route to go is what the team did against Atlanta, where the blitzes seemed to bring only five or six men but from different directions, while also having some plays where the defense dropped back instead. I think Brees and company will go for the home run ball early, and I'd hate to see Colt McCoy and company down by three touchdowns before they even have a chance to build a rhythm.