No quarterback in the NFL has been quite as hot as Saints signal caller Drew Brees. He is firmly in the MVP discussion after igniting for 1,454 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions over the last four weeks.
A big story line heading into tonight’s match-up against the Falcons isn’t just that the Saints can secure the NFC South championship with a win, but that Brees has a chance to eclipse Dan Marino’s long standing record.
In 1984 Marino threw for an NFL best 5,064 yards, and Brees needs only 305 yards to break this record, as he currently sits on 4,780 passing yards so far this season.
It could end up being a historic night for the Saints franchise.
Brees has very good chance at becoming the first to surpass Marino, and that chance could be made even more special if he can do it at home in front of thousands of Saints fans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
But as much grief as Brees has likely brought to the Falcons defense as they prepare face him, the Saints defense has a tough match-up itself when it comes to slowing Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.
Ryan has been hot since losing to the Saints in week 10, where he still managed to throw for 351 yards.
He is averaging just under 300 yards passing a game in the last month, and has thrown eleven touchdowns to only two interceptions.
That has helped the Falcons win four of their last five games.
Gregg Williams defense has been an inconsistent unit this season. They have made some key stops when it counted, but also have seen there fair share of missed tackles and bone head plays.
Last time the Saints faced the Falcons William’s defense was torched on the final drive of regulation as Ryan connected with receiver Harry Douglas on three pass plays of over 20 yards.
Of course that allowed Atlanta to drive down the field and kick a game tying field goal, and while the Saints would eventually win in overtime, it was a shining example of what not to do.
On the drive the Saints stopped blitzing and went into a deep prevent coverage, and with all day to throw Ryan had no problems finding the soft spot in the zone defense they deployed.
Before that the Saints had stuck to their typical game plan — blitz, blitz, and more blitz — which was very effective against Ryan.
When the Saints defense blitzed Ryan completed only 12 of 25 passes for 139 yards and no touchdowns. His cumulative passer rating plummeted to a 65.3 mark.
That’s in stark contrast to his numbers when not blitzed — 17 of 27 for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception — with a combined passer rating of 96.5.
So for the Saints the game plan should be simple enough when it comes to cooling off Matt Ryan, blitz him early and blitz him often, because the pressure seems to really get to him.