Drew Brees may not have been "Drew Brees" we know and appreciate. I contend Sean Payton has yet to be "Sean Payton" this season. The intelligent, aggressive, and bold play-caller has become reactive, passive, and conservative for most of the first two games of 2020.
Will the Real Sean Payton please stand-up versus the Green Bay Packers tonight?
Sean Payton is a very successful head coach and play-caller, especially when facing the Green Bay Packers. I recall in Week 2 of 2006, the rookie head coach marched his team into the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field to take on the future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. New Orleans defeated the Cleveland Browns 19-14 in his debut. The Green Bay would be their second-straight road game. It soon became a "tone-setter" for Payton and his 2006 squad.
The team surrendered 13 first-quarter points to Favre and the Packers, but Drew Brees led the charge to storm back for a 34-27 win. The Saints shocked most of the NFL with that victory. That one win built the confidence in a young talented team that would eventually reach the 2007 NFC Championship Game in Chicago.
While examining Payton's 4-1 record of 4-1 against the Packers, you would have to believe New Orleans has the advantage in tonight's game. Payton's lone defeat was on a 2011 NFL Kickoff classic contest in Green Bay. New Orleans lost 42-34 after Brees brought them to the goal-line as the Packers defense prevent rookie running back Mark Ingram from scoring in the final seconds. A game where many pundits believed Payton should have allowed Brees to have the last say and control the outcome. Nevertheless, on a cold Wisconsin night, Brees and Rodgers passed for over 700 yards and six touchdowns in their first head-to-head showdown.
Tonight, there will be no Mark Ingram, Marques Colston, and Brett Favre. There will be Brees and Rodgers. Payton, to his admittance, has not called an above-average game as a play-caller early in 2020. Consequently, Drew Brees has been unlike "Drew Brees." However, Rodgers has returned to his 2 NFL MVP like form with victories over Minnesota and Detroit. The advantage for New Orleans is this defense is better than the Vikings and Lions thus far this season.
Payton can capitalize on a weakened Packers defensive front. Nose tackle Kenny Clark (groin) is questionable for tonight. If Clark cannot play, Payton should test the defensive line's ability to contain the running game. Second-year center Erik McCoy would see most of the Saints' snaps attacking Clark or his backup defensive tackle Billy Wynn. Wynn was called-up from the Packers' practice squad this week. Their defense is currently ranked 12th against the run, 13th versus the pass, and 19th overall.
New Orleans must avoid falling behind at any point in the match. Sean Payton does not want to have Drew Brees and the offense to become one-dimensional. The Saints' offense may still be licking their wounds from an underachieving defeat against the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday, but this no time to reminisce.
5 KEYS FOR PAYTON'S OFFENSE TO WIN vs. PACKERS
- BE PATIENT - Balance the offense within the first 3 drives to set a tone and test the Packers' defensive line.
- EARLY GROUND GAME - Allow the rushing element of the offense to develop with running backs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray. Ty Montgomery is OUT of tonight's game. This offensive line is better suited to "push around" defensive fronts; use them.
- BE BOLD & TAKE YOUR SHOTS - Drew has rarely taken downfield shots in 2020. Since activated, allow Hill or Winston to take those chances or use the pass-action more. Harris is the only wide receiver with blazing speed. However, Sanders has taken advantage of corners and safeties in his career being a target downfield.
- DON'T FORGET ABOUT HOME COOK-ING - Tight end Jared Cook has been targeted sparingly by Payton and Brees. He should match-up well on the linebackers and nickel-cornerbacks tonight.
- BE CREATIVE - Whether it's Taysom Hill, Deonte Harris, or Alvin Kamara, Payton must go back to his creative nature and utilize these targets. The New Orleans offense cannot afford to be predictable and stale.
Tonight's game is a different story for Sean Payton. How he coaches versus the Packers will the tone-setter for the remainder of the season. If the offense turns in another puzzling and out-of-sync performance, would it be out of the question for his to allow offensive coordinator Pet Carmichael to manage a couple of games?
But, if they win and win playing the manner a Sean Payton offense can deliver, this team will be back on track, mentally, for the rest of 2020. They need the "AGGRESSIVE SEAN PAYTON," and the "BOLD SEAN PAYTON," but most of all the "SMART PLAY-CALLER SEAN PAYTON" to take the field tonight. Nevertheless, quelling the doubters of the New Orleans starts and ends with Sean Payton. Can he do it tonight and win?
We shall see.