Clay A. Smith
Its hard to look past teams in the NFL. But with a Monday night "Clash of the Titans" that features the undefeated Saints (10-0) and the New England Patriots (the NFL's version of the Sith, thank me later Star Wars fans) on the horizon, Sunday's inter divisional varsity vs junior varsity rivalry lost what little cache it had to begin with.
The 1-9 Buccaneers had their crack at playing the role of spoiler but could offer little opposition. Despite scoring first on a 95 yard drive engineered by rookie quarterback Josh Freeman (who capped it off with an 18 yard touchdown pass to WR Michael Clayton), Sundays' 38-7 point mauling played out more like a nationally televised scrimmage, with the Saints ripping apart the Buccaneer's defense.
New Orleans' head coach Sean Payton called of the dogs with just under seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, pulling Drew Brees and electing to hand the ball off to fourth string RB Lynell Hamilton. Brees threw for a modest 187 yards but found WR Robert Meachem for two of his three touchdown passes. The Saints gave up just 100 yards passing and picked off Freeman three times despite playing with a depleted secondary, ravaged by injury. New Orleans forced four turnovers in all and for the first time in five games Brees didn't throw an interception.
The ever explosive Reggie Bush was sidelined with a knee injury, coming off of an impressive two score performance in St. Louis. But running back tandem Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell combined for 167 yards on 24 carries (Bell 75, Thomas 92) with Bell adding two scores. Bush will be back in time for Monday night's game against the Patriots and so will cornerback Jabari Greer. With injuries to Leigh Torrence and Tracey porter New Orleans was forced to sign veteran corners Mike McKenzie and Chris McAlister to sure up its banged up secondary.
Everyone knows that even if the Saints had their full compliment of defensive backs Tom Brady and Randy Moss are still capable of putting up a lot of points. New England is coming off of as dominating 31-14 point win over the Jets-with the last second loss against the Colts undoubtedly still ringing their heads. Two seasons ago Bill Belichick and the Pats were in the same position as the Saints are in now, on their way to a memorable 16-0 regular season. With a 7-3 battle tested New England team slated for a week twelve matchup with the leagues number one offense there's only one question that begs to be asked. Is this the beging of a dynesty or the end of one?