What will it take for the Saints to send the Texans back home with their first loss of the season and a "stunned" cartoon star in the other eye of that cow skeleton on their helmets?
Make the jump for four of my hard-hitting 'Hot Reads' that will spell it out for you.
* * Hey! Let's also use this comment area as our pre-pre game open thread and talk up our gameday gear, food, drink, and more!! * *
You knew this one was coming, but it is especially important this week that the Saints PROTECT DREW BREES.
Wade Phillips is probably carrying in some swagger from and talking confidently with his boys about how he schemed his 2009 Dallas Cowboys team to give Brees fits and shut down the eventual Super Bowl winner's high-powered offense en route to giving the Saints their first loss that season.
This time around, he has the likes of veterans Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing, as well as promising rookie J.J. Watt to bring pressure to Brees and disrupt the passing game. On the back end, they'll hope new acquisition Jonathan Joseph is healthy enough to play and can provide enough coverage to give the pressure more time to reach Brees.
What I'd like to see: That Payton really learned from the 2009 loss to Dallas and schemes the protections to stop Williams and the extra pressure, from wherever it comes. It would also behoove the Saints to establish the running game early, and try to hit on short, quick-outs to keep the chains moving so Brees can stay alive. Once this has sucked in the defense, I see Devery breaking free for another long TD by about the third quarter...
Checkdown # 1
The injury to Jonathan Vilma has me just a bit worried, so JO-LONN DUNBAR NEEDS TO STEP UP BIG TIME.
Vilma is responsible for making all the defensive calls and adjustments at the line of scrimmage, and this is a big responsibility in Gregg Williams' defense. The coaches and players are all talking a good game of confidence and matter-of-fact tone over this, but how this plays out will be crucial.
What I'd like to see: It would be really easy for a player in this situation to take on too much himself and end up messing things up (over pursuing, getting out of position, trying to rush a last-minute adjustment that puts others out of position, etc.) by over-thinking things and/or going overboard with enthusiasm and attitude.
Play it cool, Jo-Lonn. You got this. Take in what you see, think about your schemes, and know where people are and what they'll be doing so you can do what you need to do.
Checkdown # 2
Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers were brought here for a reason. Will Smith is back and hungry for sacks and tackles, Sedrick Ellis needs to show something with some of this complementary talent on the line around him.
What I'd like to see: Hey, new guys! Show us why Pay-Loo brought you here. Stuff the run and take down Schaub. Hard.
Aubrayo, you need to stuff that running lane and force Texan running backs to run into a wall of pads and large, sweaty men, allowing the linebackers to swoop around and then take them to the ground.
Big Willie, it's your turn to party like it's 2009 again. Swallow ball carriers in the backfield. Give Schaub LOTS to think about when he drops back to pass.
Today is the 5th anniversary of the Dome reopening after Katrina. That game featured a BIG PLAY ON SPECIAL TEAMS, and that will be something the Saints need to win this game.
Points will be coming at a rapid rate, so extra yards to start a drive, stolen possessions, and a big scoring play on special teams could make the difference.
This works both ways, and the Saints squad needs to watch out, because Danieal Manning is averaging 41 yards per kickoff return, while Jacoby Jones has a punt-return TD to go with his 25.4 yard per return average.
What I'd like to see: Another EXPLOSIVE blocked kick for a score by the Saints that literally blows up the noise meter. Deep, booming kicks that edge the sideline combined with stifling coverage that keeps Jones and Manning wishing they were somewhere else.
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Now it's your turn to talk. What do you think of these 'Hot Reads'? Will you be looking for something else in the game? Let's hear from you.
(Closing note: I'm giving myself big time props for getting Manning's name spelled right the first time without looking it up, but I lose big points for misspelling Aubrayo three times before looking it up. What's wrong with me?)