It was the 10th time Drew Brees threw for over 400 yards since joining the New Orleans Saints, getting plenty of help from Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles, but the main difference from the perfect team this season than the train wreck of a year ago is with Sean Payton.
In terms of personnel, not too much is different from the New Orleans Saints who stumbled out of the gates last season and posted the worst defensive numbers in NFL history to this team that’s off to a 4-0 start after a 38-17 Monday Night Football demolition of the Miami Dolphins.
But Payton is on the sidelines, calling the plays for Drew Brees, who doesn’t feel any more comfortable than hearing Payton’s voice in his earpiece, while Rob Ryan has been able to upgrade the defense from laughable to one that’s average on NFL terms, but aggressive enough to force turnovers (three interceptions and a fumble) and constantly blitz the quarterback, with 4 sacks and six more big hits on Ryan Tannehill.
He’s our lead man. I tell you what, from the moment he stepped back in the facility in April, he’s been locked in. He’s never let an opportunity go by without communicating a message. He has not let anything go unsaid. Maybe that’s the perspective coming off last year. Maybe it’s just feeling like he hasn’t been around, so he wants to make sure everything is communicated, especially to a lot of these young players, about our program and what we do on a daily basis, our work ethic, building a foundation, the history. I feel like we’re building some history here.
Brees himself marches on with his career setting pace, making it 10 games now with over 400 passing yards (30-39, 416 yards, four touchdowns), more than anyone else in NFL history, and getting all of them since joining the Saints in 2006. The Dolphins didn’t really know how to handle him, and probably should have blitzed more.
Brees was 20-of-27 for 295 yards and four touchdowns when the Dolphins sent 4 or fewer pass rushers, even though the Dolphins came into the game allowing 6.1 yards per attempt when sending a standard pass rush, third in the NFL at the time.
Brees is enjoying a better than ever conncetion with Jimmy Graham, becoming his top receiver, catching four passes for 100 yards and a couple of touchdowns, and Brees mostly spread the ball to Graham when going deep or Darren Sproles when throwing short, targeting the running back 8 times.
When going deep, Brees was 8-of-10 for 201 yards and two touchdowns on passes traveling more than 10 yards downfield. He was especially successful when targeting Jimmy Graham, completing 3-of-3 for or 89 yards and 2 touchdowns. The tight end is leading the NFL in receptions (14), yards (346) and touchdown catches on such throws with four so far this season.
Sproles has 190 yards after the catch this season, third in the league and first among running backs, which is no surprise considering he has led all NFL running backs in YAC the last two seasons. He finished the game with 95 yards after the reception.
The Saints are in the Super Bowl discussion after beating a team that looked quite good in the opening three weeks. The Saints still have to prove they can win big games outside the Superdome and that their running game can help when Brees is less than spectacular. However, it’s hard to ignore the efficiency in which this offense is operating right now, making them one of the scariest teams to play against in the league.