November 30, 2009

Perfect Brees and an enigmatic Saints D dominate Brady and the Patriots, 38-17

  • Saints HC Sean Payton: "It thought defensively with the injured, we really did a good job, especially with the depth of corner. Some new guys stepped up and handled their role real well."

    Ya think, coach?

    With a rookie and two street free agent veterans playing the majority of the game at cornerback, the Saints defense held their own against a high-flying Patriots offense led by Tom Brady.

    Mike McKenzie, signed only a week ago, and Chris McAlister, signed only two weeks ago, were previously street free agents for the entire season so far. Both combined for tight play tonight, both read Tom Brady like a book for big breakups.

    The Saints started rookie Malcolm Jenkins and veteran ex-Patriot Randall Gay, but Gay left the game early with a hamstring injury. From then on, Jenkins covered slot receivers and newcomers McKenzie and McAlister were alone on the island as Gregg Williams dialed up the pressure.

  • The Saints opened the game in an exotic 3-2-6 defense, with safety Pierson Prioleau starting as an in-the-box safety next to linebackers Jonathan Vilma and Scott Shanle, and with Gay, Jenkins, SS Roman Harper, FS Darren Sharper and McKenzie in the secondary.

  • The Patriots responded to the Saints' opening field goal drive with a touchdown drive that looked awfully impressive - covering 80 yards in 14 plays and 7:40 of clock. The Patriots converted fourth and one to keep the drive alive at the Saint 36 and then scored when Laurence Maroney dashed in from four yards out on another fourth down.

    Then down 7-3, the Saints mustered a first down before punting near the end of the first quarter, when the game certainly had a different mindset.

  • McKenzie collected his first interception since September 21, 2008, cutting off a scrambling Brady passing lane on the first play of the Patriots' second drive. His eight yard return set the Saints up at their own 41 yard line, snuffing out a promising Patriot drive that was inspired by a 41 yard punt return by Wes Welker.

    Unshakable Saints QB Drew Brees, who finished with a perfect 158.3 passer rating, cashed that early turnover in for his first of three touchdown passes in the second quarter alone. Brees hit Pierre Thomas on a designed swing pass in the right flat, a play where Brees faked two screens, and Thomas juked, jived and spun out of half the Patriots defense before pirouetting into the end zone for a 10-7 lead. He left Patriots DE Derrick Burgess dazed at the sideline. That drive was set up by Thomas himself, who ripped off a 26-yard gain.

    Hard to believe, but Brees' perfect QB rating is only the second in team history, the first by Mike Buck in 1993. It is Brees' first career perfect game.

  • The Patriots then couldn't gain traction and punted with 10:13 left in the second quarter. On the next play, Patriots CB Jonathan Wilhite blitzed from the edge and no safety picked up a streaking Devery Henderson, who was open by 20 yards in each direction when Brees shifted and hit him for a 75-yard touchdown.

    It was telling of what doom was coming for the Patriots. It was a gorgeous Brees-to-Henderson 33-yard sideline route on the first play of the game that set the tone for an unstoppable Saints offense.

  • The Patriots pulled 5:39 off the clock in the second quarter and hit a field goal, but the Saints struck again. Brees hit TE David Thomas over the middle, on another play when Brees faked a pair of side screens, for a 25 yard gain. On the next play, the Saints ran a two-receiver route and Robert Meachem took advantage of the single man coverage on a deep post. Brees made the easy throw and Meachem made a great catch for a 38-yard touchdown and a 24-10 halftime lead.

    Brady drove the Patriots down the field inside the first half two minute warning, but missed his final three passes, all three end zone shots, and kicker Steve Gostkowski missed a 50 yard field goal. The Saints kneeled off the final 13 seconds of the half to raucous applause of a 70,768 member crowd.

    That attendance is the second largest crowd in the history of Saints football, second only to a 1979 match against the Falcons.

  • Its not like Brady had a terrible first half, but it was not good, completing 12 of 21 passes for 124 yards and an interception. It did look terrible, however, when compared to Brees' three-touchdown, two-incompletion, 229-yard first half. And yet the Saints demonstrated fantastic run/pass balance on the day, 12/13 in the first half and 25/23 on the game.
  • The Saints did miss out on an opportunity for a TKO in the early third quarter, when on the first play of the half, Scott Fujita forced a Laurence Maroney fumble that Sedrick Ellis recovered. But Ellis, somehow forgetting that he is a 6'1, 307 pound defensive tackle, tried to return the fumble, only to lose the ball himself. Maroney hustled on the play to put a helmet into Ellis' chest, popping the ball out which the Patriots recovered for a net one yard loss.

    Sean Payton, who coached an otherwise spectacular game, inexplicably challenged the fumble, even when Ellis fumbled while standing up nearly straight. Not sure about that one coach, but it is forgiveable.

  • Brady and the Patriots would cash in on Ellis' gaffe, when a scrambling Brady lofted a pass that Randy Moss caught in traffic at the Saint 12, then pushed down to the 2. Maroney walked it in from there, and the 24-17 lead didn't appear nearly as safe as it was.

  • Darnell Dinkins became the 19th Saint to score a touchdown at the end of a three-play drive that featured a 68-yard catch and run by WR Marques Colston. Brees rolled out of tight goal line formation from two yards out to push the score back to 31-17.

  • Brady would drive the Patriots again, but going for it on 4th down at the Saint 10 didn't pay off. Mckenzie made yet another prescient break on a Brady pass, nearly interception the fourth down pass to Moss short left. The Saints and Patriots exchanged punts into the fourth quarter, when Brees led a 5:18 minute drive that started with a 27-yard strike to Colston, covered 75 yards in nine plays with the final 20 on a strike over the middle to Colston. Up 38-17 with 7:55 left, the home team Superdome was a frenzy.

  • Two plays later, Darren Sharper intercepted a badly errant Tom Brady pass and returned it 38 yards to the Patriot 25 with 7:04 left on the clock. That would be Brady's final pass, as he was yanked after throwing 21/36 with two interceptions and a sack and one of his career worst 55.0 QB rating. The final seven minutes of such a fire-lit were uneventful, with John Carney missing a short field goal the highlight.

    The game ended as the Patriots surrended, their backup quarterback Brant Hoyer sacked by Will Smith on a pass attempt, and New England holding two timeouts.

  • The Patriots won the time of possession battle, 33:16 to 26:44, yet couldn't turn 5 of 10 full drives into touchdowns like the Saints did. The Saints had only 8 meaningful possessions before Brady was benched, yet scored 38 points.

  • The Saints injuries of note were to RB Mike Bell (stinger) and CB Randall Gay (hamstring). Both starting cornerbacks, Tracy Porter (MCL) and Jabari Greer (groin) missed the game but Greer could be back as soon as next week.

  • In a classy move, Patriots HC Bill Belichick interrupted Brees' postgame ESPN interview for a congratulatory hug. Belichick has suffered a devastating loss in which he pulled his quarterback out with more than seven minutes left, this only two weeks after Peyton Manning pulled off an improbable comeback against his own team.

  • Post-game tweets:

    Usama Young wrote: "11-0 baby! Thanks for the shout outs. Who dat! Gotta enjoy this W"

    Lance Moore wrote: "Who Dat!!!!!!"

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