NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -Take One: Nine will be fine
If anyone had any doubts about Drew Brees’ health, Sunday should put those to rest.
Drew Brees looked like Drew Brees, and that will always be enough.
He picked up right where he left off since the injury. Early on, Brees stayed short and efficient, but by the second half, he was slinging it all over the yard. He finished 34/43 for 373 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Throughout it all though he was razor sharp mentally. In the second quarter, Brees saw a look from Arizona and audibled at the line. After the snap, he hit Michael Thomas on a shallow cross for 16 yards. I counted four examples of pre-snap adjustments like this that led to big gains.
Physically, the only pass that looked like it may have been hampered by the injury was his very first one to Dan Arnold where the ball sailed on him downfield. That was really it.
The talk all week was, why have Brees play when they have the bye week next week? Brees understood the concern but gave a perfect response.
“I’m a football player.”
He said a little bit more before and after that, but for me, that was everything.
Brees plays football. That’s what he does, and if he’s healthy enough to play and can help his team win, he’s going to do it. You don’t last as long as Brees has without having a love and passion for the game.
It’s really that simple. Plus, Brees is forty. It’s not like he has infinite about of games in his career left.
All in all, Brees instincts were correct, and Sean Payton made the right decision to play him.
Take Two: Murray making a difference
When watching Latavius Murray, he strikes me as the type of back that offensive lines love blocking for. With his running style, there’s no guessing. He’s going to go where the play tells him to go. If the hole is there, he is making a nice gain. If it’s not, he’s taking a short one and moving on to the next play.
Fortunately on Sunday, there were plenty of holes that Murray took advantage of for 102 yards on the ground on 21 carries. Murray also made a huge impact in the passing game with nine catches. Brees targeted him 12 times which was more than he targeted Michael Thomas.
The Saints have leaned heavily on Murray with Kamara out with 62 touches in two games, and he has delivered.
Take Three: defense shuts down Arizona
Another week. Another dominant performance by the Saints defense. They completely shut down the Cardinals rushing attack and were stingy in the red zone.
They also provided the turning point in the game in the third quarter when they stuffed the Cardinals on fourth and one at their own thirty-yard line. On the play, it was David Onyemata and Kiko Alonso that made the stop. At that point, the Saints had just thrown an interception and were clinging to a 10-6 lead. After that play, they outscored Arizona 21-3.
In the last five weeks the Saints defense has given up: 257, 252, 226, 252 and 237 total yards to opposing offenses. Regardless of quarterback, a team will win more often than not when putting up those kinds of numbers.
Take Four: Appreciating Teddy
Though the day belonged to Brees, Saints fans provided a cool moment when they cheered for Teddy Bridgewater when he appeared on the jumbortron. They also broke out chants of ‘ Teddy, Teddy’ when he trotted on the field to close the game out.
In a nervous and anxious time for the Who Dat Nation, Bridgewater calmed their fears and steadily guided the Saints to five straight wins. It’s safe to say Saints fans truly appreciated his effort.
Though it can’t be easy for Bridgewater to go back to the bench, he’s helped himself tremendously by signing with the Saints as a backup this offseason. Next year, he will be starting somewhere, whether it’s in New Orleans or somewhere else. In fact, he may be one of the hottest free agents on the market in March.
Take Five: Other Observations
- Andrus Peat played one of his best half of football in the first half of Sunday’s game.
- The return of Brees brought the return of Taysom Hill, and he gave the Cardinals problems Sunday. What stood out Sunday was how refined his routes have become. On his touchdown catch, he gave a hard plant inside then hit the out route and easily beat the safety. On his two other receptions, he popped wide open. He ran a wheel route from the fullback position and was not picked up the Cardinals defense in the fourth quarter 36 yards. Earlier in the game, he ran a shallow cross unguarded in man coverage and gained 22 yards. Bottom line, Arizona didn’t have a plan for Hill and it bit them Sunday.
- Not sure what happened at the end of the half when the officials ruled Murray out of bounds. To me, it was pretty clear he was out of bounds but they ruled his forward progress had stopped thus the clock kept running.
- C.J. Gardner-Johnson had another impressive outing. He finished with five total tackles and made a great play by pushing Larry Fitzgerald out of bounds in the end zone before he got his second foot down in bounds. It negated a touchdown and forced the Cardinals to settle for a field goal.
- Brees took full responsibility for his interception. Zach Line somehow got matched up with Patrick Peterson down the sideline, while Michael Thomas was left uncovered underneath. Brees still threw it to Line.