Denver 34, New Orleans 14. It was no contest.
The Saints offense was inept. Receivers had trouble getting open. Brees was not accurate. The running game was, well, the running game.
The Saints defense was, well, the Saints defense, the league's worst. Denver gashed the Saints for 225 yards rushing and Peyton Manning had his way with their porous pass defense, completing 22-of-30 passes for 305 yards and three scores with no interceptions. Curtis Lofton is the only consistent force on that side of the football.
This was your worst nightmare realized. The offense finally failed to perform and score points while the defense continued to give up points (and yards) in droves. There was little enthusiasm, little resistance from the Saints in the second half.
The Saints defense now holds the ignominious distinction of being the first team in NFL history to give up 400 or more yards to an opponent in seven straight games. What a way to open the season!
Sadly, the return of Joe Vitt made no difference. The Saints performed very poorly in an important game in prime time. Their season is now on life support.
Here are my remaining first takes from Denver's victory over New Orleans:
**The Saints caught a break--pleasant weather in Denver in late October, suitable to their passing style.
**Tracy Porter missing the game reminded us of his fragile nature when he was with the Saints. Denver did not need him.
**The Saints went with an empty backfield on first play from scrimmage. No need to create the illusion of running the football.
**Charles Brown lined up at tight end on the second play from scrimmage and did so quite a bit. It did not matter with regard to the New Orleans non-existent running game which produced a paltry 51 yards.
**The Broncos went no huddle on their first offensive series.
**Roman Harper had a pass defensed on the third play for Denver. We do not see that very often with Harper.
**Curtis Lofton had a near interception of Manning on Denver's third offensive play--you have to make those plays!
**The Saints insist on playing Mark Ingram. For what reason, I have no idea. He is not elusive. He does not display good vision. He is not fast. He is not productive. He carried three times for seven yards, a typical ledger.
**The officials missed an obvious horse collar tackle by Von Miller on Darren Sproles. Obvious call to make in space, easy to see. Apparently, it was easy for everyone but the official on the spot.
**Thomas Morstead landed a beautiful punt at the Denver two-yard line. Courtney Roby, a superb special teams player, was there to down it. Of course, it did not matter. Denver proceeded by carve up the Saints defense, driving 98 yards in 11 plays for the first score of the game. Roby later got injured, hurting his shoulder trying to lay out for a catch.
**Morstead had to punt eight times, something he is not at all used to. He averaged 46 yards per punt.
**The Saints, as we expected, played Lofton and Jonathan Vilma together. They tipped their hand when declaring Scott Shanle inactive. It was to no avail. The defense still stinks.
**Devery Henderson dropped a deep ball, perfectly thrown by Drew Brees. You simply cannot miss these opportunities.
**Good move, Joe Vitt! He inserted rookie Akiem Hicks into the starting lineup for the first time, replacing Brodrick Bunkley, who was inactive. Hicks made a big play, forcing a Willie McGahee fumble which Lofton recovered. That led to the first score for the Saints which tied the game 7-7. Hicks got penetration on a few other occasions and had a tackle for loss in the second half.
**Brees has now thrown a touchdown pass in 50 consecutive games and he threw his 300th career touchdown pass with the 29-yard touchdown pass to Sproles on the first play of the second quarter. His 300 touchdown passes tied John Elway, who is now the Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Broncos. Sproles has been a nightmare for the Broncos for years, dating back to his days as a San Diego Charger.
**Manning broke a Denver franchise record, passing for 300 or more yards for the fifth consecutive game.
**Vitt went Sean Payton on us, going for it on fourth-and-two from the Denver 47 and Brees was intercepted by Wesley Woodyard. Still, I liked the call. That is Saints football. Give Peyton Manning the ball anywhere and it is trouble, as we would see.
**Of course, Manning took advantage immediately, leading Denver to an easy score. Manning later hurt his right thumb, hitting the helmet of Martez Wilson while following through on a pass.
**Vitt then inexplicably did not call timeout with over 40 seconds remaining in the half, allowing the Broncos to run the clock down to where their field goal ended the first half. Consider that Denver would receive the second half kickoff. Though Brees and the offense did not play well in the first half, that is your only chance to win, getting them at-bats.
**Jimmy Graham may have been playing with a sprained ankle but that was no excuse for dropping a pair of passes. At least he continued competing and caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Brees with just over two minutes to play.
**Manning proceeded to take the Broncos on an 11-play, 93-yard drive to open the second half to put the Broncos in control at 24-7. Game over. From that point forward, it was, as we say in these parts, lagniappe for the Broncos, a term Manning is very familiar with.
**Why punt on fourth-and-one from your own 29-yard line, trailing 31-7 with with 14:07 to play? Go for it. What do you have to lose?
**Denver's defense simply played faster than the New Orleans offense.
**Denver was by far the tougher, more tested team. Through six games, they had faced the toughest schedule in the NFL, based on the combined record of their opponents. Their schedule gets lighter now and their record should improve substantially. They have good players.
While Manning may not admit it publicly, he was burning for an opportunity at redemption against his hometown team for what transpired in Super Bowl XLIV. Needless to say, he took advantage of the opportunity, extracting sweet revenge, at least for one night.
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