New Orleans Scuttlebutt 12-2-09

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Clay A. Smith

Bob Dylan said it best, with poignant brevity, "...yea these times are a changing." And yet there are still those, an ardent few (small in numbers but large in temerity), that cling with religious conviction to the antiquated notion that the Saints are some how an aberration. Well even those incredulous curmudgeons were compelled to offer a congratulatory nod of approval after a masterful Monday night performance by the " Black and Gold." With a secondary comprised of rookies and retirees, their most dynamic running back (Reggie Bush) and leading pass catcher from a year ago (Lance Moore) on the mend, the Saints still managed to do something that thirty other teams and the British military have previously been unable to-make the Patriots "say uncle."

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Down 38-17 (the eventual final score) with 5:26 left to play, New England head coach Bill Belichick waved the proverbial white flag, pulling All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady and inserting rookie Brian Hoyer. Out-played and out-coached, Belichick had seen enough. Across the field, Saints' head Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees co-authored some of their most spectacular drives to date-methodically dissecting the Patriots' secondary for chunks of yardage and further fueling the controversial debate over the league's top signal caller.

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Brees was magical from the outset. In the game's first play from scrimmage he hit  WR Devery Henderson (just one of the team's many home run hitters)  on a 33 yd over the shoulder strike, just out of the reach of two Patriot defenders. The message was as clear as it was concise. If the Patriots had any inclination that the Saints were at all enamored by their championship pedigree, they had been woefully misinformed.

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Brees finished the game with a season high 371yds and 5 scores, finding five different receivers on each of his TD passes. And though he demonstrated incredible marksmanship throughout, it was his exceptional corps of receivers that opened the floodgates. Robert Meachem continued to impress, catching a 38 yd TD to meet his weekly quota. Henderson finished the game with 116 yds on three catches, the bulk of which came on a wide open 75 yd score that coach Payton himself could have run in-and he wasn't even the leading receiver. Marques Colston spear-headed the attack with 121yds and a score on just four catches, submitting one of the best games of his young career.

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While Brees was orchestrating one of Monday Night Football's all-time great performances, Saints' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was matching wits with one of the NFL's most celebrated strategists (Belichick) with guys (corner backs Micke McKenzie and McAlsiter) who had been comfortably transitioned into civilian life for nearly a year. The Saints' defense successfully grounded high flying WR Randy Moss (3 catches 67 yds.), making him a virtual non factor, and had Brady (21/36 for 237, zero TD's, and 2 INT's) looking like something he hadn't resembled in some time -human.

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The Saints' defense played inspired football, in part because of the resurgence of former Saint Mike McKenzie. After his second major knee injury, McKinzie and the Saints parted ways a season ago. But when New Orleans' already  depleted secondary lost corner Lee Torrence to the IR  with an injured shoulder suffered against Tampa, McKinzie was given a second chance. And with his team down 7-3, and the Patriots threatening to add to their lead, McKenzie made one of the game's most pivotal plays. With the pocket collapsing around him, Brady  tried to force the ball to Moss, only to find that he was blanketed by the veteran corner.  McKinzie's interception was the catalyst for the Saints' amazing coming out party and signaled the beginning of the end for New England.

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Now 11-0 for the first time in franchise history, the whispers of an undefeated season are  becoming increasingly harder to ignore. With the heart of their schedule behind them, their last five games (@Washington, @ Atlanta, Dallas, Tampa, @ Carolina) are winnable to say the least. However improbable, a franchise that had once made the  brown paper bag a fashionable game day accessory, is now on the precipice of fashioning something that only the '07 Patriots have previously been able to stake claim to-16-0.

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