Golly, this sure is a passing league nowadays. You want proof, eh? Well try this on for size: Drew Brees’ passing performance on Monday night helped the league tie a record. In the history of the NFL there have only been two seasons (2010 and 2012) where there were six passers who threw for over 400 yards, multiple touchdowns, and no interceptions. With his 413 yards and four touchdowns, Brees now joins Aaron Rodgers, Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, Colin Kaepernick, and Peyton Manning to complete this record tying list in just four weeks! In other words, quarterbacks are passing more efficiently now than ever before (but we already knew that). I just think it is impressive that the 2013 season has already turned in a tuplet of incredible performances.
Anyways, the game itself was highly entertaining. At first, the Dolphins seemed as if they were going to be able to withstand the high-octane offense of the Saints. They forced a few early punts and closed out the first quarter down only 7-3. Things did not look horrible going into the half either, as New Orleans was only ahead 21-10 (a manageable deficit). When things really exploded was in the third quarter when Drew Brees decided to drive a spike into Miami’s heart with two quick scores to his tight ends (a four yard dump-off to Ben Watson and a 43 yard to Jimmy Graham). As the game wore on, Graham was proving to be a difficult mismatch. In the first half he had only one catch (albeit for a touchdown). In the second half, he exploded with three catches for 73 yards.
To be fair, Miami had a lot to deal with in this game. It was clear that early on the Saints and Sean Payton wanted to get the ball in running back Darren Sproles’ hands in space as much as possible. Sproles absolutely killed the ‘Phins, racking up over 100 yards receiving in the first half along with a rushing and receiving touchdown. Nobody in the secondary was fast enough to keep up with this lightning bolt and he shredded Kevin Coyle’s unit; he averaged a gain of 12.9 yards every time he touched the ball (punt and kick returns notwithstanding). In the second half of the game when the defense was eyeballing Sproles, Drew Brees was hitting up his bigger targets in Graham and Marques Colston. It was going to be tough to stop the Saints on this night (as it always seems to be on a Monday night), so the fuel was added to the fire when Ryan Tannehill decided to be a bit careless with the football (four turnovers total). As ugly as those giveaways were, I would say the real reason the Dolphins had this game slip away from them was because of the play of their offensive line. Tannehill was dropped four times and hurried on several other occasions. Junior Gallete and Cameron Jordan simply terrorized the tackles and became a nuisence to the Miami quarterback. Simply put, the Saints dominated the line of scrimmage on defense.
One guy who has really impressed me is Khiry Robinson, running back for the Saints. Last week against Arizona he proved to be a punishing runner, so he earned himself some playing time this week. Early on Randy Starks and Paul Soliai were stone-walling him, but late in the game Robinson returned the favor by power running right into the teeth of the Miami “D”. The young running back has really carved out a niche in this New Orleans offense and I would like to see him used as a closer in future games.
At the end of the day, this game was won by the Saints defensive line and the incredible play by Drew Brees. 413 yards and four touchdowns is nothing to shake a stick at, so it would be a huge disservice if I failed to mention how his right arm totally dominated the night. Miami does indeed fall to 3-1, but they are in no need to panic; many of teams have come down to New Orleans and gotten it handed to them on a Monday night. Now they need to shake the cobwebs and head back home to play the defending Super Bowl Champions. The Saints head to Chicago to play the Bears in what promises to be a telling game for both teams. I am looking forward to both of these upcoming contests as we head into Week 5!