This week ahead of the Colts’ road match-up against the Saints we asked Christopher Dunnells of Canal Street Chronicles to answer a few questions about the Saints as we prepare for a Monday Night Football showdown. Here’s what he had to say:
Drew Brees is just two touchdowns shy of Peyton Manning’s insane career touchdown record of 539. As Colts fans, we are in a select group that understands how unique it is to get to watch that kind of greatness over a career. Do you ever just sit back and soak in the greatness that is Brees’ career?
Some times Saints fans have to - and should do more often - take a second and recognize just how fortunate we are to see Drew Brees play quarterback. Unfortunately, it has spoiled many among the Who Dat faithful into thinking that the next quarterback who steps up for New Orleans after #9 will play at an identically-high level. To that end, there were many who were overly critical of the play of Teddy Bridgewater, proclaiming things like “Drew wouldn’t have made that poor decision,” or “Drew would’ve had better ball placement there.” And while true, players of Drew Brees’s caliber are rare, so in what could be Drew’s swan song in the NFL, hopefully Saints fans can stop for a minute and smell the roses every now and then.
In Brees’ absence, the Saints didn’t miss a beat, winning each of the 5 games they were without him. Was that more a testament to coaching, or just the talent level on this team?
Both. It was a testament to the depth of this team but also to Sean Payton and the rest of the coaching staff and their ability to have their players buy in to the idea that those games were still winnable and creating opponent-specific schemes to highlight the roster’s strengths while accounting for the weaknesses brought on due to the absence of players like Brees.
To all those who said Sean Payton needs Drew Brees to be successful, going 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater against the likes of the Seattle Seahawks (on the road) should hopefully silence some of those critics.
The Saints have gotten an excellent season out of Cameron Jordan, who has 13.5 sacks on the season. Second year player Marcus Davenport has had a solid season as well. Apart from slowing down those two, who do the Colts need to really watch out for from this Saints defense?
Well Davenport has just landed on IR due to a foot injury, so there’s no longer any need to worry about him lining up at defensive end. Davenport was able to generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but where he’s going to really be missed is in the run game with his ability to contain the edge. Trey Hendrickson will fill in just fine as a pass rusher, but he’s not nearly to Davenport’s level in the run game.
On defense, the Saints will typically live and die by the play of cornerback Eli Apple. Marshon Lattimore had gone back to his rookie ways of locking down opposing number one wide receiver options, and that has left opposing quarterback to target Eli Apple early and often. When Apple has a solid game, the Saints defense overall plays well. But when Apple struggles in coverage, opposing quarterbacks can get the ball out early to whoever is lining up against Apple, rendering the Saints above-average pass rush irrelevant.
Michael Thomas has been the picture of consistency since coming into the league. However, this season he has already just about matched his prodigious 2018 season’s numbers with 3 games to go. If his pace continues, he’ll finish 6th on the list of single season receiving yards leaders. So if you’re Colts DC Matt Eberflus, how are you game planning to minimize his impact?
I don’t know of another way to say this, but opposing defenses haven’t gotten the message yet:
MICHAEL THOMAS IS THE ENTIRE SAINTS PASSING ATTACK. FORCE SOMEONE ELSE TO BEAT YOU.
Even when opposing cornerbacks have excellent coverage, Thomas is so fast and physical off the snap that he can still beat you inside for quick slants or jump outside on out routes with seemingly two yards of separation. Beyond Thomas, the Saints are really lacking for options at wide receiver. Double, or even triple, cover Thomas. Have your cornerbacks be physical with Thomas at the of scrimmage. The chemistry between Thomas and Brees is impeccable right now, so anything you can do to disrupt the route on timing plays will go a long way in slowing down Thomas, Brees, and the entire Saints offense.
What is your game prediction and final score?
I have to pick the Saints to lose for them to win, so I’ll say Colts 31, Saints 17.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I don’t see a scenario where Sean Payton doesn’t force the issue on Peyton Manning’s touchdown record. First and goal at the one? Instead of a run in an obvious running situation, expect a shovel pass or touch pass to Brees can get the record. That means Sean and Drew will likely come out guns blazing in hopes of lighting up the scoreboard. I can see Drew throwing for at least four touchdowns this game, so I’ll say Saints 35, Colts 24.
Thanks to Christopher for taking the time to answer these questions and give us a unique insight into his team.