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What we’ll remember from Monday night is Drew Brees setting one of the NFL’s greatest records with the flair the moment deserved, on a long touchdown down the sideline.
Something else happened on Monday night, amid all the hoopla over Brees becoming the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards. The New Orleans Saints looked like they might have shaken off whatever was holding them back in September and appeared to become true Super Bowl contenders, just like they were last season. They blasted the Washington Redskins 43-19.
The Saints looked great on Monday night. Brees was fantastic, as usual. Mark Ingram’s return gave the Saints some extra offensive balance. The defense had a fantastic night, pressuring Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith all night. The Redskins came into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as the first-place team in the NFC East, and the Saints made them look like a Sun Belt team.
The Saints looked like Super Bowl contenders coming into the season, then looked sluggish for the first few weeks of the season. Maybe they just needed some time to warm up, because they looked like one of the best teams in football on Monday night.
Saints defense has a breakout game
Washington isn’t a bad team. They came into Monday night 2-1, with a dominant win over the Green Bay Packers on their resume. The Redskins might not be great, and they might not even make the playoffs, but they’re not terrible.
The Saints made the Redskins look terrible.
The most impressive part of the night might have been New Orleans’ defense. That same group got embarrassed in a Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and didn’t slow the Atlanta Falcons down in Week 3, a shootout the Saints won in overtime. But it looked good on Monday night. The pass rush was great, and it was particularly promising to see first-round pick Marcus Davenport have a big night. The Redskins had just 283 yards, and plenty of that came late in the second half with the game out of hand.
The Saints started slowly on defense last season too, then turned it around a few weeks in. Maybe that’s happening again.
New Orleans’ offense, with Mark Ingram, looked unstoppable
Of course the Saints offense hasn’t been an issue in the Sean Payton-Brees era. With Ingram back from a four-game suspension, the offense looked fantastic on Monday night. They finished with 447 yards.
Brees’ historic throw is the one we’ll see on NFL Films clips for a long time, but his entire body of work is as good as ever. Brees completed 26-of-29 passes for 363 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Tossing two touchdown passes to intriguing rookie Tre’Quan Smith, including the record-setting 62-yard pass, was a great sign that another target is emerging for Brees. Not that he needed more help.
If the defense we saw swarming Alex Smith and the rest of the Redskins is what we see the rest of the way, we know the offense will be among the NFL’s best. The Saints were one of the best teams in the NFL last season and could be again this year.
Saints could be among NFC’s best
What separated the Saints from other teams that had some issues in September is New Orleans found ways to win three of four games. They beat the Browns because Cleveland couldn’t make a clutch kick. They beat the Falcons because Atlanta can’t stop anyone. And they beat the Giants because the Giants aren’t that good.
A 3-1 record through four games was a fine place to be in, even though the Saints hadn’t played all that well. Working on things with a winning record is a great advantage to have.
And it seems like the Saints have figured some things out, if the brutal beatdown of the Redskins is any sign. This was Brees’ night and a time to appreciate his career and one of the great NFL records. But for Brees, who is chasing a second Super Bowl title at age 39, the sideshow of the record might not have been the most important development on Monday night.
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