Ready for Battle

Saints hope to prove Cowboys all hat, no cattle
Saints defensive end Cam Jordan says stopping Dallas’ run game will be key to a Saints victory in their nationally televised game on Sunday Night Football. (Greg Trott via AP)

 

What a difference a week makes.

In the last seven days, Saints fans have gone from seemingly losing their religion to finding the bedrock of their faith.

Before last Sunday’s 33-27 victory, on the road over the Seattle Seahawks, many were talking and acting as if the season was over following quarterback Drew Brees’ thumb injury and subsequent surgery that will keep the field general on the sidelines for six to eight weeks.

In a game in which the final score was not indicative of the Saints dominance throughout the contest, backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater showed why team executives and coaches made him the highest-paid backup QB in the NFL. With a week to practice with the first-team offense, Bridgewater had time to adjust to the speed of the game and help his team prevail.

I laud the Saints’ decision to stay on the West Coast between their Week 2 game in Los Angeles and last week’s game in Seattle. Several players have said the week away served as a time to bond on and off of the field.

While the win pushed the Saints to a 2-1 mark – and resurrected the belief that this team is very good, even without Brees – the Black & Gold Nation’s faith will be tested again this week when the lights Sunday night will be big and bright, deep in the heart of NOLA.

The Dallas Cowboys come to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for a Sunday night showdown with a 3-0 record, in first place in the NFC East.

While “America’s Team” and their star players, quarterback Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, are receiving accolades from the national media. There is room to question whether or not these cowboys are all hat and no cattle. After all, the opponents they’ve faced, the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins, are a combined 1-8 to start the season. Their primetime game this weekend against the Saints may be their first true test against a solid opponent.

Of course, Saints fans – and the NFL’s bean counters – wish Brees was healthy and playing in this game. It would help in drawing attention to this game, but the Saints offense has showed it can move the ball and put points on the board. And the defense is again showing signs that it will continue to improve as the season moves forward.

Last night on WWL Radio, defensive end Cam Jordan said the team’s focus will be on stopping “Zeke” and the Cowboy’s ground attack and forcing Prescott to beat them through the air.

“If you want to have fun, you gotta stop the run,” Jordan posited.

It’s a truth that has existed longer than the 100 years that the NFL has been around.

Despite the rumors that Cowboys fans might make up up to half the attendance in the Dome on Sunday night, here’s no doubt that Saints fans will be interested in this game and be vocal.

Last week, I pointed out that if the Saints can win half of their games while Brees is sidelined, the team should be in the thick of the playoff hunt when their starting QB returns. This week, Brees said his surgery was successful, he has already removed the cast from his hand, is rehabbing the thumb to make it stronger, and he believes he can come back sooner than their Week 10 home game against the archrival Atlanta Falcons. If that is the case, it will mean Brees will miss only one divisional game, Week 5 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Over the next month or so, several of the Saints’ stars will and must shine bright. Jordan, running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas must help take some of the heat off of Bridgewater. I have no doubt that they will rise to the occasion. But remember, this team doesn’t need to go undefeated in order to make the postseason. A .500 record while Brees is absent will put the Saints in the thick of the playoff race. This team has proven to be one of the NFL’s best over the last few years. Even without the best player to ever wear the Saints’ uniform, it is positioned to compete and win.

Sunday night will be a challenge, but it is nowhere near the biggest game these players have been or will be part of. The men on the field want to make a statement that they can do it, even against the odds of losing their starting QB for a good chunk of the regular season. They’ll have no bigger stage than Sunday’s primetime contest.

 

 

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