Drew's Divine Comedy
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 17, 2009
The phrase "statement game" is typically misused.
What they really mean is "imperative game!" – a game in which one team or another makes a forceful declaration of its place high upon the totem pole of pigskin.
In the realm of literature, Chuck D's mundane "It was the best of times it was the worst of times" is a statement. But Dante's chilling "Abandon hope, all ye who enter!" is an imperative.
In football, a 21-20 victory by an underappreciated team over a highly touted opponent is a statement game.
But an explosive 48-27 dismantling of what was one of the best defenses in football in a game that's over at halftime is an imperative game!
And that's exactly the message that these poetic football Florentines we call the Saints sent to the visiting Giants and the rest of the NFL Sunday afternoon in the Superdome. It was a game of the week that quickly turned into a divine comedy – a laugher for Drew Brees and the Saints that will probably go down as the signature victory by any team in the 2009 season.
Like Dante upon entering his literary inferno, visitors to the Superdome this season appear to have little hope.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees will get all the attention this week for a game that may finally elevate him in the eyes of the pigskin public to the level of elite quarterback currently enjoyed by the likes of Manning, Brady and Big Ben.
He certainly deserves the attention for what was probably the best game of his career.
In the first half alone, Brees completed 17 of 20 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns, to lead New Orleans to a ridiculous 34-17 lead at the break.
Remember, the Giants had surrendered just 71 points in their first five games total. But their widely praised defensive unit was hopelessly outmatched in this contest.
The Saints scored touchdowns on an unbelievable five of six drives in the first half. The one drive that failed to find the end zone ended just inches shy of it. Late in the first half, facing 4th and goal at New York's 1, the Saints were stopped cold. It was the only play the New York defense made in the entire half, and the Giants were lucky they didn't enter intermission trailing 41-17.
Brees ended the day with what we'll declare the best performance of the 2009 season:
23 of 30, 76.7%, 369 yards, 12.3 YPA, 4 TD, 0 INT, 156.8 passer rating – falling just shy of a statistically perfect 158.3 passer rating.
In fact, more than just the best game of the 2009 season, it might have been the most statistically impressive and dominating performance by any quarterback in years, especially when we consider the quality of the defense that Brees deconstructed on Sunday.
The statistical story behind the epic
But if you want to know the real story of this victory, the foundation of the epic bit of pigskin poetry, you'll find it in the trenches – where the Saints easily destroyed the Giants in the one battle we weren't sure that they'd win.
In our tasty statistical savories from last week, we sized up the Giants and Saints in each of our Quality Stats. It was an impressive display of dominance on both sides of the ball for both teams.
At the end of the day, the numbers to us indicated a Saints victory – no, we didn't envision the beatdown they produced. But we did anticipate they'd win (and narrowly cover).
However, there was reason to have faith in New York, if you were so inclined. There was one area where the Giants boasted an advantage on both sides of the ball.
The Giants were better than the Saints on defense at forcing negative pass plays. In fact, the Giants were second in the NFL (13.57% NPP), while the Saints were fourth (12.88).
The Giants were better than the Saints on offense at preventing negative pass plays. In fact the Giants were No. 1 in the NFL (3.18% NPP), while the Saints were fifth (4.51).
Despite the disadvantages, the Saints absolutely dominated this battle on Sunday, especially when they had the ball.
Offensively, the Saints suffered just a single negative pass play in 31 dropbacks – 1 sack and 0 INTs against a defense that was second in the NFL at forcing opponents into these critical mistakes that often change the course of a game in a split second
Defensively, the Saints forced three negative pass plays in 38 drop backs – including an always critical interception (Jabari Greer). It was a league-leading 11th pick for New Orleans here in 2009.
The dominance of the Saints offensively was more than obvious to anyone on Sunday, as it has been all year. But New Orleans is the total package on both sides of the ball. Perhaps for the first time in franchise history it's hard to find anything that even closely resembles a weakness.
For a Saints organization that has been more often the joke than the joker in its 43-year history, their dominating victory over the Giants was a vocal statement – excuse, us, an imperative command! – to the rest of the league.
Abandon hope, all ye who enter: the road to the Super Bowl goes through New Orleans ... and a visit there these days looks like hell.
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