500, 32, & 1
Brees, Saints eyeing history, playoff positioning in game against Baltimore
There will be a lot on the line this Sunday when the Saints take on the Ravens in Baltimore.
In a season that has already seen quarterback Drew Brees become the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards, he is in position to add two more major milestones to his Hall of Fame resume this week.
With 499 career touchdown passes, he is just one away from joining Peyton Manning (539), Brett Favre (508), and Tom Brady (501) to become just the fourth NFL player to reach 500 passing TDs. It is highly likely that he’ll reach that vaunted plateau this weekend, as he and Brady battle it out to reach and break Manning’s record. He is also looking to join Manning and Favre as the only quarterbacks to record wins over all 32 teams in the NFL. In 18 seasons, the Ravens are the only team he hasn’t beaten. This mark may not be so easily achievable. But if the Saints stick to the company line of focusing on one game at a time, they could help themselves and their quarterback.
After three straight years of missing the playoffs, the Ravens are 4-2. They sport the number one defense in the NFL and, through Week 6, their quarterback, Joe Flacco, is having one of the best seasons of his career. The Ravens are a formidable opponent, and leaving Baltimore with a win will not be easy. The last time the Saints faced the Ravens on the road was the year after their Super Bowl win. With a champion’s target on their back, the Saints lost a tough contest, 30-24.
This year’s game will be must see TV, as it features one of the league’s most prolific offenses against one of its top defenses.
At the top of Baltimore’s game plan will be winning the battle for time of possession. If Brees & Co., are not on the field, they can’t run up the score. When the Saints do have the ball, they are hoping their defense can limit New Orleans’ threats, especially running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas. Through five games, Kamara has rushed 69 times for 299 yards and five touchdowns. But with 38 receptions for 351 yards and a touchdown, he has been equally devastating catching passes out of the backfield. Thomas has 46 receptions for 519 yards and three TDs. The receiver has seemingly been an unstoppable force this season. Targeted 49 times, he is catching the ball an eye-popping 93.9 percent of the times the balls been thrown in his direction.
With only one game under his belt this season, due to a four-game suspension, Mark Ingram may well be an x factor in this game. In eight years in the league, the last two have been the running back’s most productive. In his only game played this year, he had 53 yards rushing on 16 attempts and crossed the goal line twice. If the Saints are able to use him effectively in a power rushing attack, it will draw the speedy Ravens defenders closer to the line of scrimmage. That in turn will open passing lanes for Kamara and the Saints receivers and tight ends.
Of course, the defense need to keep showing signs of improvement as it has since the beginning of the season. After a horrific opening to the season, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen’s squad has climbed up to rank No. 7 in total defense. Through five games, the Saints are giving up an average of 28 points and 369.0 yards per game (297.6 passing and 71.4 rushing).
Going back to the team’s focus on one game at a time, if the Saints can handle their business against Baltimore and move to 5-1, they’ll keep their position as the second best team in the NFC behind the 6-0 Los Angeles Rams. New Orleans currently leads the NFC South by a game over the Panthers (3-2). Considering Carolina has a tough road matchup against the reigning Super Bowl champion Eagles, a win could give the Saints a two-game advantage in the division.
As they’ve said all season, take one game at a time. Focus on winning, achieve their goals week in and week out, and their ultimate goal will be within reach. At the end of the season, the Saints may well look back at this weekend’s game as a major step forward. They’ve had two weeks to get healthy and prepare for this challenge. A win Sunday will do much to let the NFL know this team is for real and that the Saints are coming.