It’s not as if the Lions’ roster will be the only one changing. On Dec. 4, the Saints played without running back Chris Ivory, and two rookies, linebacker Martez Wilson and cornerback Johnny Patrick, who head into the playoffs off the best games of their professional career against the Carolina Panthers. Their presence will give New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams even more package flexibility and provide wrinkles with which Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford must contend.
The 2011 Saints might be better than the 2009 team that won the Super Bowl. Both were 13-3 in the regular season, and this season’s squad set several NFL and franchise records, mostly on offense.The Saints 7,474 offensive yards set a new league mark by 399 yards. Drew Brees’ 5,476 yards passing was the most for any quarterback by more than 200 yards, while his 468 completions and 71.2 completion rate also set new league highs. Darren Sproles’ 2,696 combined yards rushing, receiving and on returns also established a new NFL single-season best.
If Sean Payton’s New Orleans Saints are inclined to reflect back on anything from 2011, it’s not so much their recently concluded record-breaking regular season as their disappointing first-round playoff loss to Seattle last January
Saints receiver Marques Colston is quietly putting together one of his best seasons. But there was nothing quiet about his performance in Sunday’s 45-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Colston caught seven passes for 145 yards, including two touchdowns. The first was a spectacular leaping grab in the back of the end zone. The second was a 42-yard bomb against broken coverage during a two-minute drill.
Behind Brees’ record-setting performances, the Saints soared past all eight opponents at home, but if they can handle the Lions next Saturday night in the Superdome, then they must head to San Francisco. And if they get by the formidable Niners, who rode a stingy, big-play defense to a 13-3 mark, a date at potentially frigid Lambeau Field is likely.