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Film Room: Stopping The Saints Offense Ain't Easy

The Broncos defense faces yet another stiff test. This week, they'll be tasked with stopping Drew Brees and the Saints offense on the road. Josh Carney turns to the film room to isolate what makes New Orleans so dangerous and how the Broncos can stop them.

Looking to put last week’s loss on the road to the Oakland Raiders behind them, the Denver Broncos again take to the road in Week 10 of the NFL season, as they’ll travel southeast to New Orleans to take on the surging Saints in the Mercendes Benz Superdome.

It won’t be an easy task defensively yet again for the banged up Broncos, as cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end Derek Wolfe with sit this one out with injuries, leaving two huge holes on a defense that is teetering as of late. New Orleans currently possesses the No. 1 total offense in football (434.5 yards per game), No. 1 passing offense (326.4 yards per game), 15th-best running game (105.1 yards per game) and the second-best scoring offense in the league (30.2 points per game), right behind the Atlanta Falcons.

Those numbers look scary on paper, so let’s take a look at what makes the New Orleans offense so good.

First of all, it all starts with the magnificent Drew Brees running the show at quarterback under Head Coach Sean Payton. That’s been a dynamic duo for the last 10 seasons in New Orleans.

They’ve always been known as one of the best passing attacks in football thanks to Brees’ great decision making and accuracy, as well as Payton’s ability to provide the Saints with a great scheme week after week.

Youth Movement

But what’s really helped the New Orleans offense this season is the emergence of some tremendous talent at wide receiver. You know all about Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead IV by now, but the player that has really taken this offense to another level is rookie Michael Thomas, whom I had as the No. 2 receiver in the 2016 class behind Cleveland’s Corey Coleman.

Not only is Thomas a physical specimen at receiver, he’s an outstanding route runner with some of the best body control I’ve seen in a receiver.

Look at the great route by Thomas to get down the right sideline. That’s veteran-level work from the rookie in the open field.

But what really stands out to me on this play is the great body control and concentration to make the catch for the score, which happened to be his second score of the game against the 49ers.

Coleman is an exceptional receiver who will only continue to get better as his career progresses. That’s quite scary to think about.

Yards After The Catch

Outside of Thomas, Cooks and Snead are more possession receivers that look to do their damage following the catch.

This is just a simple crossing route designed for Snead to settle into the Seattle zone just beyond the line of scrimmage, giving Brees the chance to complete a short throw and allow his weapons to do the work in the open field.

That’s pretty much what this New Orleans offense has become in the last few years, due to guys like Snead and Cooks, who are so dynamic with the ball in their hands that the Saints don’t need to take a ton of deep shots per game.

Explosive Receivers

This next play really isn’t that special in terms of run after the catch or anything, but the leaping ability of Cooks is absurd for a small guy.

Not only does Cooks run an outstanding route to create separation just past the marker, but he’s able to leap high, secure the pass and hang on despite knowing a big hit from DeShawn Shead is coming.

Rushing Attack

When the Saints aren’t throwing the ball all over the yard beating teams through the air, they’re pounding the rock behind an improving offensive line. Coincidentally, the Saints’ running game has taken off ever since New Orleans brought back veteran guard Jahri Evans, who was cut in the offseason.

From left to right, this is how New Orleans will line up on the offensive line:

LT: Andrus Peat

LG: Tim Lelito

C: Max Unger

RG: Jahri Evans

RT: Zach Strief

It’s not an overpowering line, but they’ve been getting the job done at a high level the last few weeks on the ground as Tim Hightower and Mark Ingram have enjoyed plenty of success on ground.

On Ingram’s 75-yard jaunt down the right sideline against the 49ers, the blocks of Unger, Evans and Strief sent the former Heisman Trophy winner into the secondary untouched, allowing him to size up Antoine Bethea, before leaving him looking to get going in quick sand.

If you take a look at the GIF above, look how Evans controls San Francisco’s DE Quinton Dial, allowing Unger to work over to the spot on the reach block. Once Unger is latched onto Dial, Evans is able to work to the second level to get a hat on LB Michael Wilhoite, sending Ingram off to the races.

That’s how it’s drawn up on the board and the Saints executed it to perfection.


Overall, this Saints offense might be pass-heavy on paper, but they look to establish the run early and often, allowing Brees to pick apart a spent secondary tired of coming up to support against the run.

It’s been a successful formula for the last few weeks, and against a banged up Denver defense, if the Broncos can’t stop the run, get some pressure on Brees behind a hobbled line and tackle at the point of catch, it could be long day for Denver. 

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Josh Carney is a Featured Writer for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @JCarney_Sports.

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