September 20, 2009

Legit in the Linc: Saints pull away from Eagles in 3rd quarter on way to 48-21 drubbing; Brees dents record book

  • The Saints are the first team since the 2001 Colts to score 40+ points in first two weeks of the season. The Saints have 93 points in two weeks, only the 1968 Raiders had more points through two weeks (95).

  • The defense played good football today. Not great, they were fortunate that first-time starter Kevin Kolb showed poor accuracy on many throws. His release when he was frustrated was not much improved from his college throwing action, which was on the wrong size of 3/4 up. On one play with the Eagles backed up deep in their own territory in the third quarter, Westbrook in the slot beat Saints LB Jonathan Vilma over the middle. Kolb's pass, short and right in front of him, was so off target that Westbrook had to kick his leg behind him to keep it away from Vilma.

  • Kolb did show good poise and did well at the end of the second quarter to move his team into field goal position with less than a minute left. He showed admirable effort, put laughable form, when he chased Darren Sharper late in the game and tried to tackle him by slapping - yes, slapping - at Sharper's feet as he fell.

  • The Saints picked Kolb three times in the game, twice in the fourth quarter. Weakside linebacker Scott Shanle has played arguably the best football of any Saint defender through two weeks, and he found his second interception when he read a quick out and sprinted to intercept Kolb in the third quarter. Shanle led all tacklers with 11 and is playing great football.

  • Darren Sharper today became only the 5th player in NFL history with 9 career interception return touchdowns. His interception snuffed out a late Eagles push and his 97-yard return tied Tommy Myers' 1978 team-record.

  • To end the game, CB Tracy Porter outjumped WR Kevin Curtis for a long jump ball as time expired.

  • The Eagles found 86 yards on the ground but abandoned the run altogether in the second half as the Saints clamped down. Starter RB Brian Westbrook found only seven yards on four carries in the second half. The Eagles had some success in the wildcat formation, and Westbrook picked up 30 of his 52 total rushing yards out of wildcat formations.

  • It surely won't be the last time the Saints' face those unconventional alignments - at one point the Eagles spread the field with their offensive tackles lined up as wideouts - and they responded decently. The Eagles really opened up the playbook in the first half but their gadgetry usually went nowhere, including an end around pitch back back to the quarterback which was incomplete and a halfback pass out of the wildcat which FB Leonard Weaver dropped in the end zone.

  • The Saints too often left Kolb scan the field with time. When they did get to him it was with blitzes, such as Roman Harper's perfectly timed blitz up the middle snuffed out a second quarter passing play in the red zone. Bobby McCray and Anthony Hargrove also saw good pass rush and McCray's sack of Kolb in the fourth quarter was a rib-rattler. Hargrove tipped and nearly intercepted a Kolb pass in the red zone.

  • It was Harper, though, that gave up the Eagles' lone big play, a first-quarter 71-yard bomb that helped make this game competitive early on. The Saints played a bend but don't break philosophy after grabbing a big lead in the third quarter. Four of Kolb's six longest completions came in the fourth quarter, though the only Eagles points of the fourth quarter were a voluntary safety performed by the Saints to escape poor field position.

    Now to the offense.

  • Drew Brees was nearly flawless. The interception was one Brees would prefer to have back, it was a bootleg to the right side and a throw to TE David Thomas in traffic that was tipped high in the air and intercepted by Eagles LB Akeem Jordan. The Eagles got some hard pressure on Brees at times, and he backed into a sack once in the first quarter and then in the second quarter he was sacked by Juqua Thomas and fumbled. A hustling Jeremy Shockey - blossoming into a real asset for this team - recovered the ball for a fourteen yard loss.

  • Brees' third quarter bomb to WR Devery Henderson was just a run-of-the-mill superb catch by the Saints' insanely talented wide receiver corps. Henderson made a remarkable catch with CB Sheldon Brown draped all over him. Henderson for the second week in a row made a catch at the first down marker and then gave up ground to try and get more. Last week against the Lions, he ended up losing ground with the move and didn't get the first down, but this week he picked up a block on the perimeter and it worked for another five yards.

  • Brees hit nine different receivers, going 25/34 for 311 yards and three touchdowns. He has a whopping nine touchdowns through two games, that ties former St. Louis Cardinals QB Charley Johnson's 1965 league record. Unfortunately for Johnson, he had nine touchdown passes total for the rest of the season as his team went 5-6.

  • WR Marques Colston had two created adjustments for Brees' first two touchdowns. Robert Meachem, replaced on kickoff returns by Courtney Roby, had a 15-yard run on an end-around and an 11-yard catch-and-run on third and short. WR Lance Moore wasn't targeted before a hamstring injury sidelined him.

  • Both tight ends, Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas, were a big part of the Saints' offense early on. Brees' first four passes were completions to Thomas and then three to Shockey, including a great catch by Shockey to pick up a third down. Brees looked for Shockey or Thomas ten times in the game.

  • RB Mike Bell went down with a suspected MCL injury in the fourth quarter, but before that was a great second option for the Saints' offense. He scored the first rushing touchdown of the Saints' 2009 season, blasting in 7 yards out behind Heath Evans and Jonathan Goodwin.

  • Bell's 86 yards on 17 carries provided a good pulse for the Saints to set up the pass, but now it looks like the Saints will be down to Reggie Bush, Lynell Hamilton and two runningbacks with MCL injuries. Pierre Thomas, nursing the same problem, was active but had a brief appearance in the game. Bell's legitimate run threat allowed the Saints to open up the Eagles' secondary.

  • Bush didn't have much success during this game, despite a hard week of practice to recover from a bad start to the 2009 season last week. Bush's offensive contributions were limited to two swing passes he just didn't turn to see, a bunch of runs that went nowhere, and then two big-time plays at the end of each half.

  • With 1:20 left in the second quarter, Bush slipped behind his coverage down the sideline and a scrambling Brees lofted a short pass to him. Bush turned upfield and despite the running clock and no timeouts, cut inside the field and moved the Saints down to the Eagles 25 with a 29 yard gain. Brees hit Colston on the next play for their second touchdown connection.

  • Then, late in the fourth quarter with Mike Bell hurt, Bush took over as the full-time runningback and made Payton's decision pay off. Bush had carries of 7 and 1 and then on 3rd and four with the Eagles stuffing the box, he hop-stepped to the left and raced past CB Sheldon Brown for the score. It was a small redemption for Bush, who had visibly struggled and earlier in the game had an embarrassing, retreating six yard loss on a punt return. Still, Bush's season so far has been disappointing, as he is not even the integral part of the passing game that he used to be. He's been reduced to a bit role in the Saints' powerhouse offense and on punt returns, he looks hesitant when he's not falling back into bad habits.

  • The Saints improved their bad special teams performance from last week. Rookie DB Malcolm Jenkins had two big plays on coverage teams. He forced a fumble on the Eagles' second half kickoff return, punching the ball loose from KR Ellis Hobbs which S Chris Reis recovered. Jenkins later stuck punt returner DeSean Jackson, fighting through a doubleteam on punt coverage and blasting Jackson as he caught the ball. Both were big plays from the Saints' first round draft pick who hasn't broken into the defensive lineup yet.

  • Rookie P Thomas Morstead averaged 52 yards on three punts, none of which had a good return, and also kicked off 10 times. Three of his kickoffs sailed into the end zone though one sailed out of bounds - a rookie gaffe from Morstead who has been otherwise excellent through 2 games. PK John Carney hit field goals of 23 and 25 yards and six extra points. The Eagles did get a long kickoff return from Hobbs in the third quarter and Courtney Roby chased him down at the Saint 35. That starting field position led to the Eagles' final touchdown.

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