Turns out the only person who could outscore New Orleans this weekend was Stephen Curry.
And the 53 points Golden State sharpshooter’s put up against the Pelicans on Saturday just beat by one the 52 the Saints tallied Sunday.
Much to Curry’s regret, he’ll be playing the Pelicans only once more this season. Meanwhile, Drew Brees and the Saints are probably wishing they could go against the New York Giants every week.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen in the NFL.
And despite their abysmal 1-6 record, the Tennessee Titans, Sunday’s opponent in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, rank fifth in total defense, allowing 112 yards per game less than the most recent visitors.
“That’s the challenge,” Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday. “Each week’s a completely different one.
“We turn the page and start looking ahead.”
But while the Titans should provide a tougher test than the Giants, whose veteran coach Tom Coughlin refused to give any adjectives about how he felt about his defense’s efforts, one thing is clear about the Saints at midseason:
It may have taken a few weeks, but after losing 60 percent of last season’s receptions and receiving yards from a passing game that ranked third in the league, Brees and his receivers, both old and new, are completely on the same page.
Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills and Pierre Thomas may be history in Black and Gold, but Willie Snead, Brandin Cooks and C.J. Spiller are writing their own chapters, while Marques Colston and Ben Watson are proving that the older the bottle the sweeter the wine.
“We’ve put in the work,” said Spiller, who caught the last of Brees’ NFL-record-tying seven touchdown passes Sunday. “He’s always in constant communication with all of the receivers to make sure you know how we want the ball thrown and where we should be on certain routes.
“Then we go out there and we work on it. And then any time you can go out there and make plays, the confidence level is going to increase.”
On Sunday, Brees attacked the Giants anywhere and everywhere, but seldom where he shouldn’t have.
The one exception: the third-down throw from the Giants’ 34 in the third quarter when, instead of taking advantage of a seemingly empty field in front of him, he didn’t throw the ball far enough to get it over Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who made the pick at his 7.
Picky, picky, picky indeed.
Otherwise, Sunday was a masters class, make that PhD-level one, in preparation resulting in near-perfection.
Even the deep ball to Cooks on the game’s third play worked, except for the fact it was a quarter-step beyond his reach after Cooks had blown past the Giants’ secondary.
That one will probably go back into the playbook for later use.
The Saints certainly didn’t need it Sunday.
Not when they had plays ready like:
The flea-flicker to Snead for 34 yards and the first touchdown.
A deep pattern to Watson for a 46-yard gain. That was the longest regular-season gain for the soon-to-turn 35 Watson (He’s quick to remind that he had 63-yarder in a 2005 playoff game while he was at New England), for whom the Graham trade has provided a career-rejuvenator.
The slant to Cooks for a 26-yard touchdown, of which 22 came after the catch.
The play-action down the middle to Colston, who was so open he pretty much walked into the end zone for 53-yard score, which, at age 32 the Quiet Storm has certainly earned the right to do.
The in-traffic throw from the 9 to Spiller who had released out of the backfield, proving there’s more than one way to score in the red zone than looking for Graham.
That’s only five examples. But being that Brees had 35 other completions, there isn’t room to list them all.
Of course, it helped that the Giants’ defensive coordinator is Steve Spagnuolo, the person fired by Payton on his first day back from his Bountygate suspension in 2013.
While Payton and Brees were too polite to admit how they were licking their chops at the opportunities they were seeing, saying it was a typical week of grinding through things, you could practically hear the conflicting echoes of 2012, Spags’ only season with the Saints, in what the Giants were saying after the game:
“I can say we have to tighten up on our communication and playing together. I don’t know what happened,” – Rodgers-Cromartie.
“For the most part, it was the stuff we expected. But we just weren’t stopping it.” – Devon Kennard.
On the flip side, Eli Manning, who had totaled just 323 yards and one touchdown in his previous two games, had 350 yards and six touchdowns against the Saints. That made it necessary for Brees to continue throwing until the end, reaching 505 yards.
And it took the improbable occurrence of Giants punter Brad Wing, formerly of LSU, being flagged for grabbling Snead’s facemask while tackling him after Snead’s recovery of Marcus Murphy’s 24-yard punt return to the New York 47 that made possible Kai Forbath’s game-winning field goal.
No matter. In the NFL you take ’em any way you can get ’em.
At 4-4 with the next three opponents having a combined record of 7-15, things are certainly looking a lot brighter for the Black and Gold than they are for their 0-3 basketball brethren out on 5800 Airline Highway.
And Steph Curry won’t be playing for the Titans, either.