Blueprint to beat Colts
When the New England Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, they built a defense that became the blueprint for playing "Greatest Show on Turf" in the years to come. The same thing may have happened Sunday when Williams went to a 3-3-5 defense (three defensive linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs).
After talking with Saints linebacker Scott Fujita on Monday, I better understand the flexibility the package offers, such as good pressure calls and lots of opportunities to drop eight defenders into coverage. The Saints were fine with the Colts running the ball and bet on the idea that Indianapolis wouldn't stick with the run. With 19 rushes to 45 passes, New Orleans showed it was right.
Talk about leverage
The franchise tag for quarterbacks (the average of the top-five salaries at the position) was recently released at $16.4 million for the 2010 season. A contract extension for the Colts' Peyton Manning and the Patriots' Tom Brady are on the horizon and that has to impact Brees. Brees stands to make something in the neighborhood of $100 million over the next six years and he's worth every penny.
Got to keep No. 25
Still, I've heard others say the Saints don't need Bush with Pierre Thomas on the roster. Although Bush touched the ball just 10 times, including one punt return, for a total of 67 yards in the Super Bowl, his presence put pressure on the Colts and they really never had a matchup that worked. In three playoff games, Bush had 32 touches for 325 yards and three touchdowns.
Beware the underdog
Passing the test
Both teams predominantly used the 11 personnel grouping (one tight end, one running back and three receivers) throughout the game. Each expected and got receiving production from their running backs, flexed their tight ends into receiver alignments and lived by the short pass. The Saints' longest completion was 27 yards and they only averaged 9.0 yards per completion.
Mix it up
During my time in the NFL, I quickly learned that breaking down an opponent offensively could be very revealing if the same play-caller remained for several years. If the play-caller was the quarterback and he managed the things from the line of scrimmage, there were habits if you had enough games to plug into the computer. Of course, you still had to stop him but it didn't hurt to have solid tips.
Two Saints told me they had a "great" feel for what the Colts were doing on offense. They felt comfortable playing the "cat and mouse" game before the snap with Manning and understood when they showed inside pressure looks he might check to the "smoke screen" outside. New Orleans made a number of solid tackles on the outside play because the defense believed it knew when it was coming.
Build the back end
The story behind the story for the Saints is the great job general manager Mickey Loomis did putting together the back end of his roster. New Orleans' injured reserve list was in the double digits, but the team still managed to succeed.
Key players such as left tackle Jammal Brown, defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy, defensive end Charles Grant and fullback Heath Evans had to be replaced during the season and other core special teamers and quality reserves also went down.