New Orleans Saints: Offensive Line Key to Success in 2011

Jake MartinCorrespondent IIIDecember 30, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 26:  Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks to pass as offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod #74 of the Saints blocks defensive end Kroy Biermann #71 of the Atlanta Falcons in the first half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 26, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Even though Drew Brees is one of the best players in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints’ offensive line has been the reason for their seven-game winning streak.

With all the Pro Bowl snubs that took place, it’s nice to see the Saints’ offensive line get the credit they deserve. Three out of the Saints’ five starting offensive linemen made the Pro Bowl with Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans and Jermon Bushrod getting the honors.

The Saints are the most explosive offense in the league with 457.1 yards per game, and it’s because of the execution up front by the guys just named.

Brees may be a future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback, but he wouldn’t be able to do half of what he does without the protection by the big fellas on the line. They give Brees time in the pocket, and that time allows his receivers to get open down the field and Brees takes it from there.

Not only is the offensive line responsible for allowing this passing game to be so effective, but they’ve shown strength in the rushing game as well.

Evans and Nicks drive their men off the offensive line with the rest of line blocking ends and linebackers. The Saints' running backs are fierce, hard-nose runners and once they hit the pile, the linemen and the backs continue to drive their feet and pick up extra yards.

It’s because of play like this that the Saints only need 219 yards against the Carolina Panthers Sunday to break the NFL record for most yards in a season. The St. Louis Rams had 7,075 yards in 2000.

Because the offensive line has protected Brees so well this season, it seems like every week Brees is breaking some type of passing record. The Saints’ offensive line is tied for first in the NFL in fewest quarterback hits this season with the Tennessee Titans, and Bushrod has been protecting Brees’ blindside all season long.

The Saints are tied for third in the league with fewest sacks allowed with 24, but it wasn’t all peaches over the course of this season. In fact, it wasn’t until after the Saints’ game against the St. Louis Rams that this offensive line kicked it up a notch and never looked back.

When the Saints lost to the Rams in Week 8, 31-21, the offensive line let the team down with a terrible performance. The Saints struggled to get a rushing game going and only had 56 yards, while the offensive line gave up sack after sack. The Rams had six sacks in the contest and never allowed Brees to get into a groove.

Since that day, this offensive line has been hell on wheels, and they’ve given Brees ample amount of time in the pocket.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 06:  Pierre Thomas #23 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates after scoring a touchdown with teammates David Thomas #85 and Jahri Evans #73 during their game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 6, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Opposing teams know that the best way to beat the Saints is to get pressure on Brees and not allow him to make those big plays down the field. The Rams have already laid down a blueprint, so the offensive line knew they had their work cut out in front of them the rest of the season.

Taking it one game at a time and with the help of Sean Payton’s schemes, this offensive line has done a fabulous job of creating holes for the running backs and giving Brees time to analyze the field, set his feet and throw.

It’s helped Brees pass for 5,087 passing yards this season and break Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards record. We already know that Brees will bring it in the playoffs and that these backs and receivers will be executing, so it’s up to this offensive line to take the Saints to another Super Bowl.

With the hog-mollies the Saints have up front, I like their chances.