Wednesday the New Orleans Saints took to the outside practice fields to prepare for Sunday night’s prime time match-up in Denver. The message was immediately clear to reporters afterwards as coaches and players were quick to point out that the Broncos present a very big challenge.
So playing a team whose head coach knows how the Saints like to play football is one challenge the other of course is facing quarterback Peyton Manning. “His last three games he’s thrown for an average of 300 yards 3 touchdowns and a 70 percent completion percentage which is historic. No one has ever done it before,” says Vitt.
“I think right now he has a better line with Denver than what he had in Indianapolis,” says Saints defensive end Junior Galette. “Their offense line is pretty strong up front and we just have to go after him.” Denver has allowed 10 sacks in the six games they have played this season. The Saints by contrast have given up 12 sacks in their six games this season.
“That’s the recipe to anybody you play in this league,” said assistant head coach Joe Vitt . “Get pressure on the quarterback, try to disrupt his rhythm, have the ability to make him smell your breath.” The Broncos are ranked 4th in the league in passing and 23rd in running the football.
Oh by the way, Denver’s defense is pretty good as well. “We better know where Vaughn Miller is on every snap and Elvis Dumervil,” Vitt says. “Right now they’re third in the league in quarterback pressures with a four man front. They’re getting to the quarterback.”
In Denver’s last game before the bye, they scored 35 unanswered points with two touchdowns coming the way of pick-sixes. At first thought, one wants to believe that this game will likely be a shootout considering the Saints defense this season and the offense’s need to be able to put up points to keep up with Manning.
“I think our biggest challenge is ‘don’t get caught up with what they’re doing on the other side of the ball.’ Obviously, we know what their offense can do, we know what Peyton Manning can do,” Brees says. “It becomes even more of a sense of urgency. Every opportunity we get, we know we have to make the most of it and take advantage of it.”
One other key point brought up today by the team is the need to be able to finish the game and prepare for four quarter battle. The Broncos have outscored their opponents in the fourth quarter 79 to 6. “If there’s ever been a game where we’re going to put finish as a premium it’s going to be this week,” say Vitt. “We’ve got to be able to finish this game. We’re going to get their best as the game goes on.”
The Saints only had two players not practice on Wednesday and only one was due to injury. Tight end Daniel Graham did not practice due to a knee injury. Running back Darren Sproles did not practice but was excused due to a family illness.
Tight end Jimmy Graham practiced on a limited basis in what assistant head coach Joe Vitt called land base work. “He looked good,” Vitt said. Wide receiver Joe Morgan (chest) and linebacker David Hawthorne (hamstring) also practiced on a limited basis.
The Saints will continue their week of practice Thursday and Friday but then change it up a bit. Normally for a road game the team would leave following Saturday morning’s walk-through. With the high altitude and thin air conditions of Denver however the team has decided to leave Friday after practice. This hopefully will allow them more time to adjust to the environment.