With apologies to The Favre Bowl and Ravens-Patriots (I'm guessing they'll get over it), my favorite game this weekend is Jets-Saints in New Orleans. Two 3-0 teams.
All along, I've been thinking this was all about whether Brees, the hottest quarterback in the game, could figure out what defensive weirdness Ryan was throwing at him. And there's something to that, to be sure. The last time Brees faced a Ryan-led defense, in 2006, the Ravens bushwhacked New Orleans 35-22, and he threw two pick-sixes. But studying this game this week, I've come to the conclusion it's as much about what strange brews Saints defensive coordinator
Gregg Williams and Rex Ryan. Strange bedfellows. Williams was on
Williams and Rex Ryan, then, have lots in common, and it will be on display in the Superdome Sunday.
"This is the kind of game where doing a lot of studying can actually hurt you,'' Jets linebacker
Same thing with Williams' defense. The Saints are a base 4-3 defense, but in 61 defensive snaps against Buffalo last week, they ran zero 4-3 plays. Williams used three defensive lineman, sometimes in a base 3-4, and sometimes not, for three reasons: to cause confusion for a Buffalo line playing three first-year starters, to be more multiple against the Bills' no-huddle offense, and to be prepared to max-cover the Bills' downfield passing game. On 25 snaps, he used three down linemen with only two linebackers and six defensive backs. "I think we could have played eight quarters and Buffalo wouldn't have scored [an offensive touchdown],''
"Now don't go making Williams a rock star,'' Payton said, chuckling over the cell phone. "But he's been such a great addition. There're two things he's done a great job at. We've got [an NFL-best] nine takeaways. And we're top five in the league in fewest big plays allowed. Those two things have been our Achilles' heel on defense around here, and Gregg's come in and put a priority on them.''
The Saints have been terrific against two shaky offenses, Buffalo and Detroit, holding them to 243 and 231 yards, respectively. But the Eagles showed some chinks in the Saints defense, with four drives of at least 65 yards, mixing some big plays with eight security-blanket throws to
"We've been able to do well,''
I asked Vilma who was coming the most. "It's everyone,'' he said. "Just watch our tape. He's blitzing everyone. We might call the same guy blitzing four plays in a row.''
I mentioned to Williams that he's calling defense the way
In New Orleans, the Saints don't have a
I can't leave this game without flashing back to July. Payton was one of the Monday Morning Quarterback subs in the four weeks I took off this summer, and I told him the same thing I told the others: Say something. Or don't be afraid to say something, at least. And the following is what he wrote
"History has told us there will be four to six new playoff teams this season. If I had to choose one non-playoff team from last season that has a chance to make it into the 2009 postseason it would be the New York Jets. Rex Ryan will do a great job of creating a culture that lends itself to winning. I also love Mark Sanchez as a young quarterback prospect.''
Coach, you've got a future in this business.
It almost doesn't seem to matter how Campbell plays. Half of America -- including my new BFF,