Saints vs. Patriots: Outlining Factors That Will Allow Saints to Defeat Pats
So far, things have gone smoothly for the undefeated Saints. Last week was a major test in its own right for New Orleans on the road in Chicago, but Drew Brees and Co. rolled through the Bears 26-18 to a 5-0 record.
The date with New England marks the Saints' second dance with an opponent from the AFC East, the previous being a 38-17 beatdown of Miami in Week 4.
While New England poses a bigger threat than the Dolphins did, there are a variety of factors that say the Saints will come out on top when all is said and done Sunday.
New Orleans is the best in the business when it comes to the ability to dictate a game's pace. In fact, the Saints lead the NFL in this category with an average time of possession of 34 minutes, 37 seconds.
Much of this can be credited to the elite offense orchestrated by Brees, who methodically maneuvers the unit up and down the field with ease, as noted by his 1,700+ yards, 12 touchdowns, four interceptions and 69.7 percent completion rate.
Despite the absence of a credible ground game (No. 26 overall at 77.8 yards per game), Brees utilizes a short-passing attack to make up the difference.
The result is a stunning display of control over each contest that has also allowed a defense in transition to a new scheme to surrender just 14.6 points per game, which is top five in the league.
New Orleans has yet to lose the time of possession or turnover battle this season. It shows in the undefeated mark, and it likely won't change Sunday.
Rejuvenated Defense Under Rob Ryan
As hinted, the new 3-4 defense in New Orleans under Rob Ryan is legit.
Perhaps most impressive is the aforementioned 14.6 points per game surrendered by Ryan's unit, which has dropped from 28.3 last season. New Orleans gave up 440 yards per game last season. This year? Just 330.4, well over a 100-yard differential.
The unit has forced 11 turnovers in five games, with seven of those interceptions by seven different players, and sacked opposing quarterbacks 15 times thus far while preventing each opponent from scoring 20 points.
Now is the perfect time for the Saints' defense to meet Tom Brady. His 56.6 completion percentage is his lowest since 2001 and he failed to throw a touchdown pass last week for the first time in 52 games in a loss to Cincinnati.
Through Ryan's crafty blitzes and the play of budding stars such as safety Kenny Vaccaro, defensive end Cameron Jordan and linebacker Junior Galette, the Saints can rely on their defense to defeat the Patriots if necessary.
The Patriots have a serious problem at the tight end position in more ways than one. For starters, it does not sound as if Rob Gronkowski will suit up for the contest per NFL Network's Albert Breer:
Per source, as it stands now on Friday night, it doesn't look like Rob Gronkowski will be suiting up for the Patriots vs. Saints.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) October 11, 2013
However, the more concerning issue for New England is Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who is having a historic career and is easily the best player at the position as ESPN's Numbers Never Lie details:
New England allowed 77 yards to tight ends last week, but that's nothing compared to what Graham is capable of on his own.
Jimmy Graham is on pace for 118 catches, 1,897 yards and 19 touchdowns. #BeastMode— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 8, 2013
Simply put, New England, nor any other team in the league, has an adequate answer for Graham at this point. Even worse, New Orleans can spread out the Patriots defense thanks to a bevy of quality weapons and consistently exploit whatever mismatch Graham has created.
With Graham lining up both at receiver and tight end, the Patriots have little hope to contain him on each play—one is all he needs to change the course of a game.
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