October 23, 2011

Saints Demolish Colts on Prime Time Sunday Football: 62-7

The Saints issued an unholy beatdown in their own house of horrors in the week before Halloween, 62-7.

It was an immediate and thorough demolition of the Peyton Manning-less Colts, as the two teams played their first game since Super Bowl XLIV.

While the outside of the Superdome was lit up by a new lighting system, the inside of the newly-named  Mercedes-Benz Superdome was lit up by the New Orleans Saints.

With head coach Sean Payton coaching from the high-elevation broadcast booth, the Saints offense hardly skipped a beat.  Racing out to a 31-0 lead and setting team records with three first quarter touchdown passes, the Saints thrilled the Sunday Night audience with an offensive explosion.  

The Saints set, among other records, the team high mark for most points scoring in a game.  The Colts franchise hadn't given up this many points since 1956.

The Saints jumped out to a 21-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and drove for a fourth early second quarter.  126 yards passing for Brees, three touchdowns, and 21 first quarter points were all team records.

Brees finished 31/35 for 325 yards and five touchdowns in just three quarters of action.  The three-headed monster of runningbacks Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas finished with 148 yards rushing and 118 yards receiving, while Marques Colston led all pass-catchers with seven receptions for 98 yards and the game's first two scores.  TE Jimmy Graham had a relatively down week for his astronomical season stats so far, but still grabbed six passes for 54 yards and two third-quarter scores.

The two early touchdown passes to Colston from short range were masterpieces, the first a high-flying aerial display by Colston, who went up and pulled the ball away from away from the defender with one arm, and held on to it when he hit the ground flat.  The second at the goal line, Colston going up high and enjoying a devastating hit LB Pat Angerer to pull down the touchdown.

The Saints' second touchdown drive was set up by a classic PT Cruiser screen pass, with Brian de la Puente and Carl Nicks as 300+ door frames for Thomas, who slipped one more tackle by S Antoine Bethea to break down the left sideline.  Bethea, whose initial tackle attempt drew a personal foul facemask flag, fought off Jimmy Graham's block to tackle Thomas at the Colt 8 yard line.  Two plays later, Colston caught his second touchdown.

The Colts' first and third drives were snuffed out by fumbles, the first when a shotgun snap bounced off of QB Curtis Painter's chest and through the offensive line where Jonathan Vilma pounced on it for the easy recovery.  Two drives later, DT Tom Johnson forced the ball from RB Delone Carter and DE Cameron Jordan recovered it. In a scene reminiscent of Super Bowl XLIV, a giant pileup near midfield was dismantled by referees.

Brees picked up his team record third touchdown pass of the first quarter when he found "Super Smurf" Darren Sproles at the goal line, juking free and spinning into the end zone.  The Saints didn't face a single third down in the first quarter on 18 plays.

The Saints forced a second three-and-out punt early in the second and drove for their fourth straight touchdown on eight plays, kick-started by a 26-yard gain by Lance Moore who hop-step juked away from CB Kevin Thomas and raced downfield.  Passes to Meachem for 18 and Graham to 14 set up FB Jed Collins' one-yard plunge with 10:47 left in the half.

Another three-and-out by the inept Colts offense and a 16-yard punt return by Sproles gave the Saints their first drive at the New Orleans 42.  The drive stalled at the Colt 5 after two incomplete passes to Graham and Moore, and John Kasay hit the 23 yard field goal to make it 31-0 with 4:23 left in the half.

The Colts finally got their offense in gear and drove 80 yards for a touchdown thanks to a 42-yard run by RB Delone Carter, who appeared to be down or out of bounds before staying up and staying on his feet down the right sideline. Carter finished off the drive with a two yard plunge off right tackle.

The Saints moved downfield inside the two minute warning and got into field goal position with a 39-yard pass to Marques Colston, Brees stepped up away from DE Dwight Freeney's speed rush and found Colston wide open deep in the secondary.  Kasay hit a 47-yard field goal as time expired, sending the teams to the locker room at 34-7.

Brees took the second half kickoff down the field, moving 75 yards in 5:38.  A methodical drive by Brees saw the Saints face no third downs in 11 plays, with runs by all three runningbacks.  On first and goal, Brees rolled right and fired very low for Jimmy Graham.  The former power forward's outstanding catching radius allowed Graham to haul in the calf-level pass and smash into the end zone for Brees' fourth touchdown pass and a 41-7 lead.

The Colts' first third round possession saw the Saints force Painter into an intentional grounding deep in his own territory and another three-and-out punt.   Graham caught his second touchdown pass to cap off an 11-play, 60-yard drive to make it 48-7 with 1:46 left in the third quarter.  Graham split wide right presnap, then climbed the ladder to catch Brees' fade over S David Caldwell.

The Saints finally took Brees out of the game at the end of the third quarter, and Chase Daniel entered the game to keep the Saints' streak of scoring drives alive. The six-play, six-run drive featured all three runningbacks, with Ingram and Thomas converting first downs and Sproles covering the final 16 yards on a tackle-shedding run around right end.  The Saints had possessed the ball eight times at that point, scoring seven touchdowns and a field goal.

Ingram left that drive though with an apparently right foot injury, and was captured on TV limping into the locker room.  He was later diagnosed with a bruised right heel.

The Colts didn't go three-and-out on the next drive.  Painter's pass sailed far overhead of Austin Collie into DB Leigh Torrence's arms.  Torrence caught the ball in a sprint at the Colt 42 and raced through the demoralized offense, bowling into T Quinn Ojinnaka at the goal line and into the end zone.  It was Torrence's second career interception and first career touchdown.

Torrence was dogpiled in the end zone by his teammates as the defense piled on to make the score 62-7.  A career backup but a valuable veteran on special teams and passing downs, Torrence has been a beloved presence in the locker room since 2008, and has been practicing at safety and cornerback this season.

The Colts replaced Painter with Dan Orlovsky and found some momentum after Torrence's touchdown.  The new QB got the Colts into Saints territory but stalled at the 46.  On 3rd and 4, LB Ramon Humber leapt sky high over his blocker to force backup QB Dan Orlovsky's pass high.  Pierre Garcon was guilty of offensive pass interference anyway, then on 3rd and 14 Orlovsky was hammered as his threw incomplete.

The Saints lined up with a full house backfield, two fullbacks and a runningback on the next drive.  They picked up a first down but couldn't convert a 3rd and 4.  It was the seventh third down attempt of the game for the Saints, and the first one that wasn't converted by the Saints.

P Thomas Morstead, who sent every of his many kickoffs into the end zones, finally issued a punt with 2:57 left in the game, ending the Saints' streak of scoring drives at eight.

Notes: Assistant head coach/lineabckers coach Joe Vitt shook Jim Caldwell's hand at midfield after the game.... RB Chris Ivory remained inactive on the PUP list, and the Saints will have to make a decision on whether to activate or deactivate him in the next two weeks... The new lighting system outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is permanent and higher quality than the temporary wall lighting system used on the building's exterior in previous season... Tampa Bay lost in London, meaning that the Saints have reclaimed the top spot in the NFC South at 5-2... The winless Colts have been outgained in every game so far...

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