We should get to see that on Sunday night because Drew Brees of the Saints and the Broncos’ Peyton Manning are starting to get on rolls, and each opposing defense has had its share of struggles.
Brees, after a shaky start, has completed 67 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns against two interceptions in the past three games, as the Saints lost by a point at the Packers, and won back-to-back games to get to 2-4 on the season.
Manning has been even better, competing 75.9 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns against one interception. Manning’s also coming off a bye week, where he should be licking his chops to take on a Saints defense this is 29th in points allowed (30.3 points), 30th in passing yards (304.5 yards), and last in total yards (465.5 yards).
The Broncos’ defense has been much better statistically, but in recent weeks it was ripped apart by the Texans (436 total yards) and the Patriots (444), and falling behind the Chargers 24-0 at halftime before the Broncos rallied for 35 second-half points. So Brees and the re-charged Saints should be ready.
And everyone else should be ready for a scoring explosion.
Block Von Miller: Elvis Dumervil, who plays a majority on the right side of the Broncos’ defensive line, has been average this season, and only started to feast against the Chargers when left tackle Michael Harris played hurt. Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod is an upper echelon player and should be able to handle Dumervil for the most part.
Outside linebacker Von Miller on the other side, however, has been a dominating force with six sacks, and he might be even better against the run. Saints right tackle Zach Strief is going to have to hold his own against Miller. And the Saints are going to need a plan for the multiple scheme of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. He’ll stand up a bunch of guys in the front seven, move them around, and hope to confuse the quarterback and line.
If the Saints don’t get things blocking up properly, it’s going to be a long game. The Saints might want to think about a hurry-up offense, which the Patriots used to their advantage against the Broncos.
Find a way to get pressure: The Saint are bad on defense because, unlike the unrelenting line he had with the Giants, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo isn’t getting the type of consistent pressure that makes his zone coverages work.
The Saints absolutely must find a way to get Manning off his spot in the pocket – with blitzes or zone exchanges (where an end is replaced by another defender in the four-man rush) or he’ll pick apart the Saints’ secondary throwing to solid targets like Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Stokely, Eric Decker and Jacob Tamme.
The Saints should forget about even putting a good rusher over Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady. He’s back to playing at an All-Pro level and he’s virtually been impenetrable.
Porter, Adams, nickel back Chris Harris and free safety Rahim Moore can all be taken advantage of. The best way to do it is for the Saints to actually try to run the ball between the tackles — Kevin Vickerson and Justin Bannan are average — and then to use the play-action game that Brees is so good at when given the opportunity, especially to tight end Jimmy Graham.
Also keep an eye out on the slot matchup between Saints receiver Lance Moore, and Harris. Moore has terrific quickness, and Brees has been looking for him more of late. Harris will have a hard time defending that speed.
Run the ball: As bad as the Saints are against the pass, they’re also 31st in rushing yards per game (161 yards). It will be very tempting for offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Manning to go full throttle with the pass, but the Broncos need to maintain an effective balance, primarily to keep the ball out of Brees’ hands as much as possible.
The Saints are much more explosive than the Broncos. Willis McGahee (4.3 yards per carry) should be rested after the bye and ready for a full workload. Rookie change-of-pace back Ronnie Hillman has very good speed once he gets going. If the Saints have to worry about stopping the run, they’re going to have a tough time covering in the back.
Look for Stokely: The Broncos are lacking a bit in the slot — they have some solid guys but not much explosiveness — but veteran receiver Brandon Stokely has a long history with Manning back to the Colts, and has started to be impactful of late. Stokely won’t wow anybody, but his veteran savvy should be an asset against rookie cornerback Corey White, who has struggled a lot this year.
If the Saints try to blitz, watch for Manning to look for Stokely on some hot routes that can turn into bad matchups for the defense.
Don’t be too aggressive on defense: Del Rio has gotten away with blitz-heavy schemes against some lesser quarterbacks, like Carson Palmer, but if Del Rio gets too aggressive against Brees, he’s one of the best at making defenses pay.
The Broncos are going to need to get pressure with just four rushers to be effective against Brees. Miller should make his presence known, but if Dumervil can win a few battles against Bushrod on third downs, that will allow Del Rio to keep more in coverage and to frustrate Brees.
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