Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles' Zone Defense Key to Containing Drew Brees

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 05:   Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 5, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Yueh HoCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2014

Under ordinary circumstances, game-planning against Drew Brees is nearly impossible. Brees is perhaps one of the all-time greats, who can pick zone defenses apart and make you pay for sending pressure.

Luckily, the Philadelphia Eagles are facing Brees under the most favorable of circumstances. Brees and the New Orleans Saints will be on the road, playing in a likely frigid and snowy Lincoln Financial Field. Brees is 3-5 on the road, and his 126.3 passer rating at home drops to a mediocre 84.8 away from the Superdome.

To make the most of this opportunity, the Eagles must attack Brees the way previous teams have when hosting the Saints. Rather than send pressure, the Eagles should rely more on a zone-heavy game plan.

Take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who hosted the Saints in Week 2.

Brees had the worst game of his season. The Bucs held him to just a 56.5 percent completion rate and a passer rating of 67.5.

They did so largely with zone schemes rather than blitzing.

On this particular play, Brees was pressured in the pocket, causing him to throw directly into what appears to be a Cover 3 defense—failing to see linebacker Mason Foster.

NFL Game Rewind

The pass was picked off and returned for a touchdown. The cerebral Brees was uncharacteristically outwitted and baited into an ill-advised throw.

NFL Game Rewind

On that particular play, Brees faced some pressure from the defensive line, but that needn't always be the case.

Look at Brees' interception earlier in the game.

The Buccaneers dropped many defenders into a deep zone. Brees had all day in the pocket.

NFL Game Rewind

However, likely influenced by crowd noise, the Saints signal-caller again failed to see the defender. The ball landed right in his hands for the pick.

NFL Game Rewind

Whenever the Buccs sent blitzes, Brees was still able to instantly recognize the hole in the defense and exploit it. Therefore, it seems the best course of action would be to drop players back into zone formations.

Force Brees to fight past the hostile crowd environment and find the holes in the zone. It's in those circumstances that Brees seems to struggle most.

Philly is as hostile a crowd as any. With a few defensive stops and scores on offense, the crowd will be louder than ever.

For a dome team unaccustomed to cold weather, the defense could build momentum quickly.


Follow Yueh Ho on Twitter @YuehHo

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