Rapid Reaction: New Orleans Saints
December, 29, 2013
By Mike Triplett | ESPN.com
NEW ORLEANS -- A few thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 42-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which moved them to 11-5 on the season and clinched their spot as a wild-card team in the playoffs.
What it means: Who knows what this means? Obviously it was a good sign that the Saints still know where the “on” switch is inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Their offense was as dominant as ever, with 468 total yards and four touchdown passes by Drew Brees. That has to be a nice confidence boost heading into the playoffs after a nasty two-game losing streak in Weeks 15 and 16.
But we still don't have any idea if the Saints can figure out how to take this show on the road, where they've struggled all season. The disparity between the Saints' home and road performances this year has been stunning. And now they'll have to be a road team throughout the entire playoffs -- with plenty of potential nasty-weather sites on the horizon.
Brees gains, loses records: Brees was sensational Sunday, throwing for 381 yards and four touchdowns (all four of them in the first half). He also ran one in for a TD during the second half. In the process, he passed the 5,000-yard mark for the fourth time in his career -- something no other NFL quarterback has done more than once. Brees finished the regular season with 5,162 yards, 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in one of the best seasons of his 13-year career.
However, his most historic achievement fell on Sunday when Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning broke Brees' record for passing yards in a season. Brees threw for 5,476 yards in 2011 while Manning threw for 5,477 this year.
Stock watch: Saints rookie left tackle Terron Armstead obviously held up much better in his second career start. He did give up one half-sack early in the game when the pocket collapsed up the middle and around his side on a third-and-long. But for the most part, he helped allow Brees to get comfortable in the pocket for his huge day -- which included several deep throws that took time to develop. I'll take a closer look at Armstead's performance in this week's film study. ...
Meanwhile, the Saints' secondary broke down on one big TD pass when safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Corey White both appeared to bite on the play fake. It's hard to say that they missed safety Kenny Vaccaro because of that one play. Overall, the defense was pretty solid, especially after New Orleans took a big lead.
Up next: The Saints will play at the winner of tonight's Philadelphia-Dallas game, finishing as the No. 6 seed.
It's hard to ignore the Saints' road performances this year -- and adverse weather conditions could certainly hurt their passing game. But it's also hard to imagine they can't turn things around with an offense that is obviously so potent at times.