Brees’ 400th Touchdown Pass Gives Saints Overtime Victory

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Saints Give Fans Reasons To Look Ahead

By John Ventola

Folks in south Louisiana are walking more briskly and smiling more freely today. Last night’s overtime victory by the New Orleans Saints over Dallas has given them hope that their team can use the win to propel them to a much needed winning streak. With Carolina and Atlanta both off to 4-0 starts, the victory was needed to keep the National Conference’s South Division from becoming a runaway two-team  race.

Astonishingly, 17% of teams starting NFL seasons with 4-0 records have missed the playoffs. Repeat, they did not only fail to win the division championship—–they missed the playoffs, period. So there is hope for the Saints!

Drew Brees’ 80-yard touchdown pass (his 400th career TD  toss) to C.J. Spiller on the

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Drew Has All Of New Orleans Smiling Today

second play of overtime was quickly dubbed “Spiller Thriller” by headline writers, but the play carried more significance than any print paper can give it. It showed that a group of professionals can pull together and accomplish an elusive goal if their willingness to work, and attitudes, are in the right place.

After an 0-3 start, Coach Sean Payton and his staff have made adjustments that proved beneficial against Dallas. A defense that has been reeling due to an influx of young players looks stronger. The rookie defensemen, seen feeling their way around during their first games, seem to be getting more comfortable in Rob Ryan’s scheme. The return of defensive backs Keenan Lewis and Jairus Byrd helped Sunday, but fans have to remember the Saints were facing Dallas backup quarterback Brandon Weeden, and not Cowboys star Tony Romo.

Newcomer Brandon Browner and feel-good-story Delvin Breaux (who recovered from a broken neck which kept him from playing collegiately) looked overmatched at times. Browner often appeared out of position, while Breaux again showed he has not mastered the defensive back technique of looking back to locate the football. Browner

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Improvement On Defense Has To Continue

showed himself to be a solid hitter when close to the action, but little else. Energetic Breaux seemed too interested in pounding his chest and helping referees make incomplete calls after good plays by him.

Rookies Stephone Anthony, Hau’oli Kikaha, Bobby Richardson, and Tyeler Davison all shined for the defense, Anthony and Kikaha from linebacker spots, Richardson from end, and Davison at tackle.

Offensively, Spiller, now recovered from an injury that kept him out of most of the preseason, adds another quick, hard-hitting back. His running style differs from the grinding, punishing style of Mark Ingram, and the frenetic style of Khiry Robinson (Robinson almost cost the Saints the game with his immature TD celebration with eight minutes left). Spiller fits the mold of former Saints scatback Darrin Sproles, quick starts and cutbacks, plus shiftiness and an ability to avoid contact. Ingram (77), Robinson (16), and Spiller (10) gained 103 yards rushing, showing that better things may be expected ahead from the running game.

Brees made great use of all of his receivers against the Cowboys, hitting 33 of 41 for 359 yards, including the game winner. He completed passes to nine different receivers, spreading the ball to backs, tight ends, and wide receivers. His two touchdown passes were the 399th and 400th of his illustrious career. He now ranks fifth on the all-time NFL Touchdown Pass list. Peyton Manning leads with 536, retired Brett Favre had 508, and retiree Dan Marino had 420, while Tom Brady has 401.

When Brees was hit on the Saints third offensive play, and the ball fluttered toward the intended receiver, every New Orleans fan said a quick prayer that Brees was not

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Drew Overcomes Pain From Bruised Rotator Cuff

showing lasting effects from a bruised rotator cuff he suffered against Tampa Bay. The fact that he was hit, and the pass was almost intercepted, gave everyone cause for concern.

The future Hall of Famer showed his gutsy approach to football on the Saints next possession, completing eight of nine passes to drive the Saints 80-yards and giving the team a 7-3 lead. He orchestrated an effective offense by alternating a short passing game with a productive running game to keep the Cowboys defense off balance. Brees is a winner, and the last two seasons have been tough on him.

After leading the team down the field (68 yards) with no time outs remaining  to set up for a game-winning 30-yard field goal by Zach Hocker—an attempt that failed—Brees composed himself and his teammates for overtime magic.

While it may be sacrilegious to say so, Brees has lost a lot of his arm strength. This blogger pointed out to readers last season that Brees was not throwing the long ball successfully. Often Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks, and Joe Morgan had to slow up and make adjustments to the ball. Competitively he is still in the top quarterback echelon, but both he and Peyton Manning are now playing with their heads, as much as their arms.

Gone are the high-octane glory days that occurred before and right after the magical 2009 Super Bowl season. The Saints cannot outscore everyone on a weekly basis

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Saints Have To Play Both Sides Of Ball Well Now

. Payton realized it, and his plan to go with youth and talent on defense to help win games paid off for the first time against the Cowboys. Saints fans can look forward to more less exciting, but winning efforts as the year progresses.

With three-quarters of the season left to play, the Saints will travel to Philadelphia next Sunday to see if they can notch another victory. They will need another heady game from Brees, a stronger rushing attack, and the continuing growth of their young defense.

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ByJohn


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