New Orleans Saints look to build on big Monday Night Football victory over Green Bay Packers

Posted by Teddy Kider, The Times-Picayune November 25, 2008 7:55PM

Drew Brees had reason to smile after the Saints beat the Packers 51-29 Monday night. ‘Rarely do you get in a game and you just feel like whatever you’re calling is working.’

The Saints ran 54 offensive plays Monday night, tying their lowest number in a game this season. They held the ball for just less than 28 minutes, their third-lowest time of possession in a game this year.

That, perhaps, was why quarterback Drew Brees, the leader of the No. 1 offense in the NFL, was most impressed by the points the Saints scored in their 51-29 win against the Green Bay Packers on Monday night at the Superdome.
“We put up a lot of points, ” Brees said Tuesday afternoon. “That’s the most points we’ve put up since we’ve been here, and I know we tied a franchise record. I’d say it just felt like anything we did worked. Rarely do you get in a game and you just feel like whatever you’re calling is working.

“What’s amazing is we only ran (54) plays. I got done watching the film, and you look at the count at the bottom — (54) plays, you say, ‘Wow, I felt like we ran about 80 plays.’ Just because you score 51 points, you figure you had the ball for a long time. But we really didn’t have that many third downs because we were getting chunks. We made some big plays, and the points just added up.”

The Saints’ scoring contributed to a historic week for the NFL, helping to shatter the record for combined points in all league games in one weekend, now at 837.

But the relevance of Monday’s game for the Saints is not yet clear.

It could go down as the “Monday Night Football” game that served as the turning point for New Orleans’ season and began an unlikely road to the playoffs, or it could become just another game for a team that could not string together enough victories to match heavy expectations.

“I think the next two, three weeks have always, in our league, cleared things up and narrowed the field, if you will, ” Saints Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday. “And I think it will be the case again this year.”

The question for the Saints in a shortened week of preparation is how they can build on their first two-game winning streak of the season and keep momentum intact against three NFC South opponents in their final five games.

Most teams would be reluctant to adjust an offense that scored a point for almost every play and had a quarterback narrowly miss a perfect passer rating in its most recent game. Running back Pierre Thomas has become a competent rushing threat, receiver Lance Moore has a fine connection with Brees, and formerly injured players such as tight end Jeremy Shockey and receiver Marques Colston finally seem to be playing up to their usual level.

The Saints also found a way for their defense to feed off their offense’s success and the offense then to take it even further, as displayed during a dominant third quarter in which New Orleans just piled points on the Packers.

But adjusting is exactly what the Saints will do, as soon as Sunday at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, if running back Reggie Bush returns to the lineup from knee surgery.

“Once he does come back, we’ll tailor the game plan accordingly, ” Brees said. “Whoever’s in the lineup, that’s how we tweak the game plan. It’s all about putting all those guys in positions to succeed according to their strengths.”

Payton said “we’re searching still for our most complete game, ” noting some of the problems he had with Monday’s performance: the Packers’ third-down conversions in the first half, negative yardage on rushing attempts for the Saints early on, a bad call for a third-quarter trick play that resulted in an interception thrown by Moore.

Besides probably not wanting to seem too high after a win against a 5-6 Packers team, Payton likely knows the uphill battle his team still faces for a playoff spot. The NFC has nine other teams with the same or a better record than the Saints’ 6-5 mark, and New Orleans has beaten only one of those teams this season.

The Saints do, however, face four of those teams, plus the Detroit Lions (0-11), in their final five games.

“Each game that we play from here on out, that game is the most important game of the season, ” Brees said. “I think we have to approach it that way. Especially when you look at we still play everybody in our division one more time, two of those games at home. These are the most important games, and this is really going to define our season.”

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