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John DeShazier: Saints linemen know they have to protect Drew Brees better

Posted Sep 26, 2013

Franchise quarterback has been sacked 10 times

The numbers, phenomenal as they are, pretty much are up to Drew Brees standards. A couple may be a tad off but if they are, it’s due to outsized expectations he has created through years of unparalleled excellence.

Through three games he has completed 81 of 127 passes (63.8 percent) for 1,021 yards and six touchdowns, with four interceptions, for the undefeated (3-0) New Orleans Saints as they prepare for a showdown on "Monday Night Football" against the undefeated Miami Dolphins (3-0) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

But there are two numbers that Brees and his offensive line obviously want to see reduced: times Brees has been sacked (10) and times he has been pressured (14).

Opponents have been a little too productive in those areas and though football is a bruising game played by men who continuously are sore and battered from battle, a reduction of the punishment Brees is absorbing will be a welcome one.

Drew Brees

Brees never has been sacked more than 27 times in an NFL season; opponents are on pace for almost twice that many (53).

Granted, there assuredly will be some leveling of the situation. Last year, when Brees was sacked 26 times, there were three games in which he wasn’t sacked at all, six in which he only was brought down once.

But in consecutive games, against Tampa Bay and Arizona, he was sacked eight times and hurried 11 and generally, continuous punishment begins to have a cumulative effect.

“I don’t think there is anything different,” center Brian de la Puente said. “I think we just need to do a better job of protecting him (Brees). That’s really what it comes down to. We just have to do a better job.

“That’s unacceptable, and (we) take full responsibility for it because we’ve got to do a better job of giving him time. When he has time, he’s very dangerous. We’ve got to do a better job of it.”

Fairly, opposing defenses should be credited for having devised schemes that have allowed them to get to Brees. Atlanta and Tampa Bay combined to find ways to hold the Saints' offense to 39 points, though that partially was attributable to New Orleans going 1 for 7 in the red zone.

“We have seen a little bit more man coverage (defensively) in the last couple of weeks,” Coach Sean Payton said. “But I think we had an ME (mental error, Sunday) on one of the sacks, we turned a guy loose.

“We pay close attention to it. It is something that we have done a good job with and we feel like it is important if we are going to throw the football to be successful. We have to keep (Brees) upright.”

But Brees said that that the risk-reward factor for the Saints makes accepting contact a little more tolerable.

“I think for us, this season maybe we have seen a bit more of that man to man, a bit more five-man rush, a bit more where they have the ability to get pressure on you,” he said. “And yet there’s risk-reward there – the risk of having one less guy in coverage, therefore you’ve got some favorable matchups and if you can get the ball to some of your play-makers in space or he makes one guy miss, all of a sudden that routine play turns into a very big play.

“I think we’ve taken advantage of that somewhat, I think we can do an even better job of taking advantage of that. That’s maybe why those sack numbers or pressure numbers are a bit higher, just because those are the looks that we’ve gotten.

“As a quarterback you want to limit negative plays as much as possible. At times a sack is a good thing, because it means that you didn’t try to force it, or you just maintained possession and you moved on to the next play and you overcame it with a good third-and-long completion or conversion. So there’s times where you’ve just got to bite the bullet on it and get to the next play. As long as the ball is in your hands, then that’s OK.”

 

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