NEW ORLEANS -- Heath Evans has seen this before.
Victories driven by a big-play offense. Victories by a wide margin. Victories ... victories ... and more victories.
"I see a bunch of guys excited about playing together," Evans said. "These guys are getting a taste of (non-stop) winning. Dave (Thomas, a backup tight end and former Patriot) and I had it when we were on that '07 team, and you start racking them up."
This was billed as a possible preview of the NFC Championship Game, but only one team looked as if it has a legitimate chance of getting there. The Giants just looked lost. After performing so impressively while beating up on a bunch of the NFL's bottom-feeders, they were clearly overmatched against a quality opponent.
The Giants' pass rushers -- who are supposed to be the league's best -- barely got a sniff of Drew Brees. Predictably, he wound up throwing for 369 yards and four touchdowns. Not only wasn't he sacked, he never came close to being pressured. And that gave him all of the comfort and time to find mostly wide-open receivers all day.
It was reminiscent of those pitch-and-catch games that Tom Brady played with his receivers on the way to putting up historic numbers in 2007. It didn't just look easy. It looked ridiculously easy. And it's not supposed to look that way against the Giants, who, for the record, spoiled the Pats' bid for perfection in the Super Bowl and are supposed to have a pretty good quarterback of their own in Eli Manning (who had a forgettable first pro game in his hometown).
Heady stuff, to be certain. That's why, one of the first things Evans did in the locker room after the game was gather up the Saints' running backs for a brief meeting.
"These games don't count until November and December," Evans reminded them. "Yeah, we're setting ourselves up for something special, but at the end of the day, let's keep our head on straight. Let's keep our mind focused on what's gotten us here. We did something great vs. a good defense today. But let's remember, this is our fifth game, it's Week 6. In the grand scheme of things, we're nowhere near where we want to be and we haven't accomplished any of our goals."
Of course, the Saints did recognize the enormity of their accomplishment. The Giants entered the game with a bit more credibility, based on their 5-0 start and the fact they had recently hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The Saints had gained some respect, initially because Brees had thrown nine touchdown passes in helping them pile up points in the first two games, but later because of the opportunistic play of their defense and their solid running game.
Still, for the sake of lingering skeptics around the league, they needed to knock off a heavyweight, which is exactly what they did Sunday.
"We're not surprised because we know the potential of this team," added receiver Lance Moore, who caught six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. "We knew we had guys in here that kind of play well together. Our defense is playing exceptionally well; we have a great scheme. Offensively, coach (Sean) Payton is doing his thing over there, and we've got Drew Brees, who is amazing. We've got to find a way to continue playing that way."
Except for some poor kick coverage, the Saints did plenty to suggest that they will continue to win and win big. Their defense harassed Manning, although that wasn't the biggest story of the game. The biggest story was that their offense embarrassed what had been the NFL's top-ranked defense and No. 1 pass defense. A week earlier, the Giants sacked Oakland's JaMarcus Russell six times.
"I can think of better run-stopping defensive lines, but I can't think of a better pass-stopping defensive line," Evans said. "Those big five horses up front, especially the tackles, did a great job."
Tackles Jermon Bushrod and Jonathan Stinchcomb were exceptional in keeping Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora away from Brees. But the entire Saints line played with an attitude. As center Jonathan Goodwin put it, "We take a lot of pride in keeping everybody away from Drew and not letting Drew get touched. We feel like we can go out and block guys, no matter how good they are. They've got a great defensive line, and we wanted to be physical with those guys and let them know it was going to be all day that we were going to be coming after them. I think we got that across today."
It helped that the Saints consistently were in manageable down-and-distance situations. Their game plan made extensive use of hard counts and incorporated bootlegs. They also kept the Giants off-balance with different formations, which included having running backs and tight ends run short pass routes -- even when the ball was going deeper -- just to give them something to think about.
But the biggest reason for Brees' air-tight protection was Brees. He excels at identifying the defensive front, making proper reads, and getting the ball out of his hand quickly. He also does an excellent job of calling protections that involve tight ends, the fullback and running backs. That's what Brady does. That's what Peyton Manning does.
"That's what the great ones do. That's why Peyton's Peyton and Tommy's Tommy. And that's why I'm getting to love this boy here." Evans said, pointing to Brees in the corner of the locker room. "That, and his amazing feet in the pocket. I've never really seen anything like him. He's maybe barely 6 feet tall and he moves around there like he's seeing everything. I can't see a thing half the time, and I'm the same height. He's super special."