Saints 34, Colts 7

Saints vs Colts: Good, bad and ugly

Drew Brees
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The Saints were coming off a tough loss and managed to bounce back nicely with a blowout win over the Colts. Here are my observations:

The Good

-The Drew Brees/Sean Payton pairing is arguably the second best quarterback/head coach tandem in this era of football. The synergy they have is unreal. Outside Tom Brady/Bill Belichick, you can't name a better duo. Props to Brees for breaking the all time passing touchdown record on another big stage. Brees went 29/30 (96.7% is a single game record) for 307 yards and four touchdowns.

-Michael Thomas is not human. He's Brees' favorite target. Teams know he's going to get targeted at least 10 times a game or more. He doesn't have take the top off the defense speed. Yet, he still gets wide open! Thomas had 12 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. He's now 11 catches away from breaking the catches in a season record.

-Demario Davis is the playmaker the Saints have severely lacked at linebacker. He blitzes, covers, and stuffs the run better than any line backer this team has had since the Dome Patrol. I'm not saying he's a future Hall of Famer, but he's definitely making the team's Ring of Honor. Davis pressured Jacoby Brissett, as well as made key stops in both the run and pass game.

The Bad

-There was a play in the 1st quarter in which Brees got up from the turf and had to adjust his jersey, pads, and mouthpiece. That's something no saints fan wants to see, much less something Brees wants to feel. Keeping him clean is a high priority.

-43 seconds into the 2nd quarter, Brees threw his first and only incompletion of the first half short right to Latavius Murray. Bum! He couldn't complete 100% of his passes tonight because he missed that throw to Murray. What a joke! This bum deserves to lose his job!

-The defense played very well...until they put more backups in. That's when Saquan Hampton gave up an unnecessary pass interference call that set up the Colts' one touchdown with a shade over four minutes left in the game. So much for serving donuts.

The Ugly

-When right guard Larry Warford went down, so did the hearts of many Saints fans. He's been a lynchpin of that offensive line unit since he signed as a free agent from the Lions a couple years ago. His leg got rolled up on from friendly fire. Looks like he should be okay.

-An offensive pass interference call wiped out Brees' would be record breaking touchdown pass at the end of the first half. Tre'Quan Smith was flagged when the refs assumed his slight hand push gained him a significant enough advantage that the touchdown shouldn't count. I've seen way worse not be called or reviewed. At minimum, the booth should've upheld the touchdown. But then again this is like asking criminals to judge other criminals.

-With Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport out for the season, it's time for the next man up mentality. While those guys will be missed, the Saints can't let up. They were fortunate to get by the Colts and their power run game without incident because they jumped out to a big lead. The Titans next week will present a different challenge in stopping the run, so will the Panthers if they decide to play for pride in week 17, as will every NFC playoff team outside possibly the Packers.

There's just something magical about the Saints and Monday Night Football in the Brees/Payton era, especially when Brees has a shot at breaking some sort of record. The Saints took full advantage of the opening created by the 49ers inexplicably losing to the Falcons by beating the Colts. The NFC race for the #1 seed is now wide open and up for grabs over the last couple weeks of the regular season. Maybe those blown coverages and questionable calls to go for two in the 49ers loss won't come back to haunt the Saints afterall. Or maybe they will. Only time will tell. There's still two more games left to play for everybody and anything can happen.

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The NFL hasn't scheduled a game for every day of the week.

Yet.

“We’re going to be the new 7-Eleven," New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "NFL, 24 hours, you can watch them play any given day.”

The veteran preparing for his 14th season has a way of lacing his critiques with playful satire that hits his intended target. With the NFL close to filling every day of the week with a game in the 2024 season, the league with a reputation of “any given Sunday” might just qualify for that new nickname.

It's all part of the NFL's plan to keep growing the game and the league.

“Our job is to be everywhere our fans are,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said when asked about the league's new three-year Netflix deal that this year adds Wednesday games. “They have almost 300 million global subscribers. We are obviously focused on becoming more global. So it's a huge benefit to us.”

That deal is why the league that has scheduled and played games on Christmas for years will be playing not one, but two games on Christmas when defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City visits Pittsburgh as part of a holiday doubleheader capped by Baltimore at Houston.

The difference is this will be only the third time the NFL has played on a Wednesday since 1950.

The four teams involved all play on Saturday, giving coaches and players the kind of turnaround faced when a Sunday game is followed by a Thursday night kickoff. Tuesday is the only day the Chiefs won't play a game this season — technically the lone day off for NFL players with Sunday games.

Washington coach Dan Quinn said the key to preparing is sticking to a routine and shifting days. That involves trying to fool the body clock.

“This would be like a Wednesday, this would be like a Friday, this is what we do before the game, so it’s not as difficult as it seems," Quinn said. "You have some travel that you have to work in, shorter weeks, longer weeks, but staying true to a process.”

The Baltimore Ravens will only miss playing a game on a Tuesday and Friday in a schedule that includes a pair of Thursday games. Christmas will cap a stretch of three games in 11 days for Baltimore.

Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton said it's not so much a concern as more of a “shock factor,” but players will adapt and prepare for what may be the start of a new stage for the NFL. He said players likely had the same conversations when the NFL introduced games on Monday nights, then Thursday nights.

“I’m sure 10 years from now, that might be the norm,” Hamilton said of an NFL schedule featuring games throughout a week.

Arizona offensive lineman Will Hernandez said getting the body to bounce back quickly is tough.

"I just go back to this: We all signed for it. We know what it is. Let’s just go,” Hernandez said.

Monday nights used to be for a premier game for the NFL. A new contract added games on Sunday night.

Then the NFL started opening seasons on Thursday nights in 2006. In 2020, the NFL played its first Tuesday night game since 2010 because of the pandemic. Before that, the NFL hadn't played on a Tuesday since 1946.

The schedule released last week opens as usual on a Thursday night with Baltimore visiting Kansas City.

Then Philadelphia plays Green Bay in Brazil on Friday night — previously seen as a sacrosanct night for high school football.

Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets kick off the traditional Monday night slate on Sept. 9 at San Francisco.

Thanksgiving long has been a day for the NFL with games in Detroit and Dallas now expanded into Thursday nights with a triple-header. This will be the second straight season the league will compete with stores for attention on Black Friday, with Las Vegas visiting Kansas City for anyone not shopping.

Add in the international games, NFL players' body clocks and circadian rhythms easily could be thrown off.

Jordan said the league preaches about using Guardian caps for player safety. “But nobody cares about our protocol of how to get our bodies back from a Sunday game to now a Wednesday game?” Jordan said. “Not saying that sounds absurd."

Player safety didn't stop the NFL from expanding the schedule from a 16-game season to 17 games in 2021 by cutting a preseason game in the league's first expansion since 1978. Now expanding to 18 games at some point in the future is a topic for discussion as Goodell says people "want obviously more football.”

Then the schedule-maker has to find a day to slot those games, giving the NFL another chance to fill out the rest of a week where every day looks like just another work day for players.

“If anything, we were going to practice, so why not play?” Jordan said. "And now we can wear our Guardian caps in the game!”

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AP Pro Football Writers Dennis Waszak and Josh Dubow and AP Sports Writers Brett Martel, Noah Trister, David Brandt, Stephen Whyno, Dave Skretta, Joe Reedy and Mark Anderson contributed to this report.

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