The fact that Drew Brees and his New Orleans Saints air show are on pace to out-throw, out-score, and, well, out-Patriot the 2007 Patriots is an unavoidable subplot to this Monday’s primetime showdown between the Patriots and Saints.
But that’s not what the Patriots are worried about, because as much as some will try to make this into the 2007 Pats vs. the 2009 Saints, the only way you can play that game is on your PlayStation.
(Note to self: Make time to set this up on the PlayStation.)
If anything, it’s New England who goes into New Orleans with something to prove. The Patriots appear to be back on track after answering their loss to the Colts with a win over the 31-14 Jets, but are they again in the company of the NFL’s elite? Monday night will go a long way towards answering that question.
At 10-0, the Saints are unquestionably keeping elite company this year, though they’ve beaten up on an unbalanced league by taking advantage of opponents with a combined 37-63 record.
But hey, the good teams beat the teams they’re supposed to beat. I can’t hate them for that.
Come to think of it, I have a hard time hating them for anything. I mean, these are the Saints (nee, the "Ain’ts) we’re talking about. Let’s quickly recap a few (emphasis on "few") highlights:
1970: Placekicker Tom Dempsey boots an NFL record 63-yard field goal with his stumpy right foot; the cleat is bronzed and sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We’re still waiting for a Saints player to do the same (only GM Jim Finks is enshrined because of work directly related to his time with the Saints).
1971-1982: Archie Manning spends the bulk of his career as the best quarterback on the worst team in the NFL. But really, even if Archie had won a playoff game or two, would that have been enough top his greatest achievement — raising Peyton and Eli?
1987: Remember Bobby Hebert, the Cajun Cannon? Of course you don’t, because he never won a playoff game. But he took the Saints to their first ever playoff appearance, and four of New Orleans six, all-time.
Which brings us to a fascinating dynamic Monday night at the Superdome: One of the NFL’s most decorated franchises pitted against one of the league’s most desperate.
And it’s the Saints who are three-point favorites. But it might be the Patriots with the point to prove.
Four Downs: Patriots (7-3) vs. Saints (10-0), Monday, 8:30 p.m.
First: Just Like They Drew It Up: At quarterback, Drew Brees (2,746 yards, 22 TDs) is a bona fide star working with an embarrassment of riches in receivers. And with 12 different players catching touchdowns, he spreads the wealth evenly.
Second: Tom Turning Terrific: After all that fretting over his early season inconsistency, it turns out Tom Brady is still just as good as he was, B.S. (Before Surgery). Brady has thrown for 300 yards or more in his last five games, remembering how to properly use Wes Welker along the way.
Third: Speaking of Wes: No receiver in the NFL has caught more passes since the start of the 2007 season. Yeah, go ahead and ask yourself if it’s Welker that allows Randy Moss to put up his own ridiculous numbers, not the other way around. The slot machine is that good.
Fourth: Second-Half Points: The Patriots have struggled after the half, scoring just 94 points in 10 games. From 2002 to 2008 they were a preposterous 66-1 when leading after the half. This year? They’ve blow three second-half leads.
Brady Quinn: Betcha didn’t think you’d see Quinn in this category anytime, uh, well ever. But Quinn picked himself up off of the Monday night mat and played his best game as a pro (304 yards, four TDs) in a 38-37 loss to the Lions. Granted, that kind of thing happens when you play the Lions.
Matthew Stafford: Hey Brady, anything you can do I can do better. Stafford passes for 422 yards and 5 touchdowns against the Browns. Granted, that kind of thing happens when you play the Browns.
Tennessee Titans: From 0-6 to four straight wins, who woke up the Titans? Would you believe Vince Young?
Down and Out
Eric Mangini: It’s becoming great sport to throw the Man-Genius into this category; it almost feels like you can’t write it without him. Perpetually down, and virtually knocked out, the Browns head coach has to be hanging onto his employment by a thread. This week’s Man-Genius moment? Accusing the Lions of faking injuries, only to back off the claim by mid-week. Just add it to the list, Randy Lerner.
New York Giants: Let’s put it this way, if you’re a Giants fan you probably threw up your turkey by halftime on Thursday night.
Houston Texans: Lost that Monday night thriller to the Titans when their normally reliable kicker Kris Brown missed a game-tying try. Now, with the playoffs hanging in the balance, they face a must-win game. Against the Colts.
In honor of the New Orleans Saints, here’s a little classic Jim Mora. I believe it’s the first (and only) time the phrase “diddly poo” ever got the point across after a football game.
You might want to consider picking up Brady Quinn for the final six weeks now that — I can’t believe I’m actually suggesting this — he’s shown he can actually do more than dink and dunk his way around a football field. As a bonus, his motivation comes from saving his job (and sticking it to Mangini for benching him in the first place). Then again, the Browns still have to play the Bengals, Steelers, and Chargers – three tough defenses. But he does get to take his shot at the Chiefs and Raiders. Hey, everybody else has, why not Brady Quinn?
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