Another late night game greeted us Saints fans this week as the Indianapolis Colts (6-7) headed to New Orleans (10-3) for Monday Night Football. The Colts were clinging onto a very dimming glimmer of hope to make the playoffs, a loss would put a nail in that coffin. The Saints must win all remaining games to have any chance of clinching the number one seed in the NFC.
The Saints have won the last three meetings between the sides dating back to 2010, the last time they met was in October 2015 with the Saints winning 27-21. The night was also set up for Drew Brees to take the number one spot for the all-time touchdown pass record, he was third on 537 coming into the game, two behind current leader and former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (539) and one behind Tom Brady in second on 538. Michael Thomas was on course for most single season receptions, Thomas still needed 23 receptions to pass Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison who recorded 143 receptions in the 2002 season.
Both teams were coming off losses in Week 14 with the Colts losing to Tampa Bay and the Saints just losing out to the San Francisco 49ers in what has been arguably the game of the season so far (on offense anyway). The Saints have gone 43 games without back to back defeats so were looking to preserve that statistic tonight. After losing Andrew Luck at the start of the season to retirement Jacoby Brisset took up the reins at Quarter Back for the Colts and started season very well recording a 5-2 record thru weeks 1-8 notching up 14 TD’s, but thru weeks 9-14 he fell to 1-4 with only 4 TD’s, a depleted offense has not helped his situation. The Colts have been relying heavily on their running game and with good reason averaging 134.4 yards per game with Marlon Mack just 100 yards away from a 1000-yard season, the Saints meanwhile have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 35 straight games so it would be interesting to see how they planned to stop the Colts run game. The Saints have one of the best run defenses in the NFL allowing just 94.2 yards per game so if anyone is going to limit their run game it would be us. Meanwhile the Saints have relied heavily on Latavius Murray and Deonte Harris to rack up the running yards, Kamara is always a threat but is yet to record a touchdown in last 8 games and was shut down fast and effectively last week against the 49ers. The Colts however have allowed over 300 passing yards per game since week 12 so Brees and Thomas were going to have opportunities.
The Saints would be without linebacker Kiko Alonso, safety Vonn Bell, cornerback Patrick Robinson and guard Andrus Peat. Rankins and Davenport had also been placed on IR. Colts star TY Hilton (WR) was initially unlikely to feature but was declared fit for the game. Only one question was on my mind as the clock struck 1am, Beer, Rum or a Cup of Tea? Think I will start with a cup of tea…. oh how British.....!
Usually before kick-off I am preparing myself for a night of stress, high blood pressure and occasional panic attacks, but tonight was the calmest I think I ever felt during a game, some would even say it was an enjoyable experience, how often do we say that.
The Colts began the game with possession and early on they were finding joy on the deep pass, Eli Apple was being targeted one on one against Marcus Johnson and it was Johnson who picked up the first big pass of game for 20 yards. Things would improve on defense though and the usually strong running game the Colts possess was being halted at every attempt, the Colts would go on to register 46 yards rushing all night, this from a team averaging over 130 yards per game, Marlon Mack would go on to average 1.4 yards per carry. The Saints defence tonight was exceptional with DeMario Davis once again showing just how vital he is to this team. Alongside Gardener Johnson they were the stand out performers on defense for me. Although the first quarter yielded just one FG for the Saints giving them a first quarter lead of 3-0 the game was entertaining and the Saints looked like they meant business.
The Saints began the second quarter with a six-minute drive and Brees would connect with Thomas for a 15-yard score putting the Saints 10-0 up. Michael Thomas was putting on a show and took one of the catches of the season, a long throw by Brees was plucked out the air with one hand, it didn’t even look difficult for him and I can’t say I was shocked he caught it, nothing surprises me with MT anymore, this was his sixth catch of the game and he had already racked up 77 yards. Moments later Brees would find Tre’Quan Smith for a 10-yard Touchdown tying Peyton Manning’s all time Touchdown record of 539, this put the Saints 17-0 up and so far the Saints looked unstoppable in all departments.
Brees looked to have broken the record with another Touchdown but an offensive pass interference call halted the celebrations and on the next Saints drive they had to settle for a Field Goal taking the score at half time to 20-0. The Saints offense looked dangerous on every snap and the defense completed a first half shut out. It was great to see both departments at their best at the same time. When both turn up we are unplayable. The Saints didn’t take their foot off the gas and Brees was not going to miss another chance to break the record, he floated a pass to Tight End Josh Hill for the Touchdown and had taken the number 1 spot for all time Touchdowns. 27-0 the score….I could get used to games like this. Brees had completed 21 consecutive passes so far and was 28-29 on the night, another record was on its way. Brees found Taysom Hill for a 28-yard score making it 34-0 and was on course for highest pass completion percentage in a single game, a record previously held by Phillip Rivers. Brees would end the night 29/30 (96.7%), 307 yards and 4 TD’s. Compare that to poor Jacoby Brisset who finished 18 of 34 for 165 yards and a 52.9% completion percentage. The Saints also looked on course for a shut out with the Colts still not registering on the score board, that would change though when Jordan Wilkins ran in from a yard out to score Colts first and only points of the night. Oh well we can’t have it all. 34-7 was the score and that’s how it ended. The Saints moved to 11-3 with two games remaining. Next up Music City Nashville and another must win game against the Titans.
Drew Brees deserves all the plaudits on the night he was simply unstoppable, he was not only accurate but his release speed gave the Colts defensive line no chance of getting near him. He now holds 23 records in NFL history. Michael Thomas was also one of the stand out performers on the night and edges ever closer to that season reception record, he is just 11 short of equaling the record now after an outstanding performance. DeMario Davis and Gardner Johnson were my stand out performers on defense, Davis is turning out to be one of the NFL’s best linebackers. The defense as a whole were brilliant. Alvin Kamara (14 ATT for 66 yards, 4.7 average) started slowly but improved as the game went on I just hope he finds his mojo just in time for the playoffs because if we get all runners firing with Brees and Thomas then I am not worried about who we face, I back us to beat anyone.
Some media types have said Drew is not the same anymore and is in decline, well if this is him in decline god help teams when he is on fire. What we witnessed tonight was a man on a mission with no sign of letting up. Drew is not done yet, neither is the team and neither am I. Until Drew lifts that Lombardi Trophy in Miami I won’t rest. If any player deserves it its Drew, and if any team or coach deserve it its Payton and The Saints. Plus, the UK Saints deserve a Super Bowl meet up so let’s get this done.
Until next time