This is the game everyone except the fans of the other teams in the playoffs wanted to see–The top team in the AFC vs. the top team in the NFC. The game matches 2 of the top QBs and offenses in the last several years. But that is not going to determine the game. The key to the final score is most likely to be which defense makes the big plays.
The Saints’ O ranks 4th in passing and 6th in rushing. They are 1st in total yards and total points. While the passing game of Brees is the mainstay of the O, the running game will be just as critical in the Super Bowl. The Saints O balance should help them move the chains and keep the Colts’ O off the field.
While RB Thomas is the workhorse, RB Bush is the wild card. The 2 problems with Bush are inconsistency and fumbling. While he dominates some games, he disappears in others. Then there is the fumbling. In the post season he was as likely to generate a big play for the opponents by dropping the ball as he was for the Saints. He can not do that against the Colts if the Saints are going to win the game. The Vikes converted turnovers into field goals. The Colts will score TDs from Saint errors.
The O line has been banged up but has played well. They lost their outstanding LT Brown who is on IR early in the season. But the unknown third year T Jermon Bushrod stepped in and has done an amazing job. He had never started a game prior to this season and had been active only 3 times in his previous 2 years on the roster. The Colts D will try to put pressure on Brees by attacking the left side of the Saints line.
As much as the media has focuses on the offenses of both teams, game is more likely to be determined on the D side of the ball. The Saint D has been pushed around a lot this year. It is ranked 26 against the pass and 21st against the run. But it has come up with key turnovers all year. The team ranks 2nd in in the NFC in interceptions with 26 and 1st in TDs from those picks. They rank 10th in the NFC in recovered fumbles. A couple of turnovers would be very helpful in the Super Bowl.
The Saints have suffered some key injuries on the D line including former All Pro DE Grant and vet NT Clancy. Grant’s replacement McCray, DT Ellis and DE Smith are going to have to be able to put pressure on Manning so that the team doesn’t have to blitz as often. Manning picks blitzing teams apart. Smith is an outstanding pass rusher.
The loss of a NT for a 4-3 is not as critical as it is for a 3-4 but the Saints are down to their 3 string DT Ayodele. The 26 year old DT was picked up last year after he was cut by the Cowboys for the second time. He has filled in well but doesn’t collapse the pocket like Clancy can.
The second level has suffered injuries as well. LB Simoneau had been the starter for 2 years but was not able to even start the 09 season. OB Fujita has been in and out of the lineup with injuries but seems to be OK. OB Shanle AND Fujita are good against the run and can cover but are not strong at blitzing the QB.
The last line of defense will be tested often Sunday. The key to the DB crew is S Sharper. He is a vet and is the leader of the group. He needs to make some big plays to give the Saints a chance. CBs Greer and Porter and 5th DB Gay are going to have to be disciplined in their coverage. A broken zone against most NFL teams is a problem. Against Manning, it is a crisis. It will result in TDs more often than not.
The Bottom Line: The Saints are solid. They are the most balanced team in the NFC outside of perhaps the Vikes. The D is a concern but the Colts’ D is not any better.
The Saint offensive game plan should be to take advantage of the rookie corner of the Colts and run the ball to move the sticks so they can keep Manning and Co. off the field. They must be able to run the ball to win. They should also use RB Bush to challenge the LBs ability to cover the pass.
Their D game plan should be to change up their rush and pass coverages often and challenge the O line. They need to get good hits on the receivers early. The Colt receivers are young and may get SB jitters.
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Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He is a regular contributor on Cleveland Sports Radio http://www.sportstalkcleveland.com/ Monday morning at 11. He has also published several novels on
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