Tale Of The Tape: New Orleans Saints At New England Patriots
- QuarterbackWhile Drew Brees has not been winging the ball around the field like Peyton Manning, he has been dynamic in his own right and he may be the best quarterback in the NFC. Brees throws his passes with precision, buys time with his feet and almost always makes the right decision with the ball. That makes it very hard to slow down the New Orleans offense.Containing the Patriots offense has been difficult in the past, but the lack of decent receiving weapons has been a major challenge for Tom Brady. His streak of 52 straight games with at least one TD pass came to an end against the Bengals in Week Five. He will try to get a new streak started against the Saints, but the 2013 season has been a struggle for him.
- OffenseThe Saints are an excellent offensive team because they out-execute nearly everyone they play. They block better, run their passing routes with more precision and they carry out their fakes with more believability. Tight end Jimmy Graham is the best player at his position in the league. Wideout Marques Colston is dependable and running back Pierre Thomas is starting to play better as well.The Patriots are hoping to get tight end Rob Gronkowski back in the lineup, but they have been disappointed that he has not been able to play in any of the first five games. Running back LeGarrette Blount runs with power, but he fumbled vs. Cincinnati last week. Wideout Danny Amendola is a decent target, but he is frequently hurt.
- DefenseThe Saints are not a dominant defensive team, but they appear to have matured under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. They are making far fewer mistakes than they did in the past and that allows them to come up with big plays. Defensive end Cameron Jordan has a team-high 4.0 sacks, while unheralded Junior Gallette has 3.0 sacks and is starting to become a force.The Pats suffered a major blow when defensive tackle Vince Wilfork suffered a torn Achilles that will keep him out the rest of the season. However, the Pats are playing solid overall defense. They will have to be at their best to contend with the Saints and that means cornerback Aqib Talib must be stellar. Linebacker Jerod Mayo has a team-high 49 tackles and is always around the ball.
- Special TeamsThe Saints have been rather ordinary in their punt and kickoff coverage and that could hurt them against the Pats. Darren Sproles has great quickness, but he has not busted a big return yet. The duo of placekicker Garrett Hartley and punter Thomas Morstead has been solid.The Patriots have done a solid job with both of their coverage teams this year and Julian Edelman is a decent threat on punt returns. Stephen Gostkowski has demonstrated that he is a solid clutch kicker in the past, and he has made 13-of-14 FG attempts this year. Ryan Allen is a dependable rookie punter.
The Saints have far more firepower than the Patriots, but New England should be primed for an excellent effort since it is at home and coming off its first defeat of the year. The Pats defense will need to make several key stops against Drew Brees if they are going to come away with the victory. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor