A record-setting performance as definitive at New Orleans' 34-7 victory over Indianapolis on Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome doesn't require much of an introduction.
The Saints (11-3) dominated the Colts (6-8) in every way imaginable while posting their most lopsided decision this season. Even then, a few players stood above a crowded field in their level of play.
OFFENSE: Drew Brees, and you know why. He entered the game three touchdown passes shy of setting a new NFL career record, and he threw four – to four receivers – to raise the mark to 541. And he completed 29 of 30 passes to set a single-game completion percentage record (96.7), for 307 yards. One catch, a one-handed piece of art by Michael Thomas, possessed a degree of difficulty, and everything else appeared to find receivers in stride. The mood was right – "Monday Night Football," the 10-year celebration of the Super Bowl XLIV champs – and Brees, as usual, rose to the occasion. He has nine touchdown passes, and no interceptions, in the last two games and the offense that he wants to see ascending as the regular season nears its end seems to be doing just that.
DEFENSE: Probably, we can strip the "rookie" label off of defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson. He had a couple of lamentable plays in the 48-46 loss to San Francisco, but the bounce-back was impressive: a team-high eight tackles, two tackles for loss, and a pass defensed against the Colts. He started at strong safety in place of the injured Vonn Bell and continued to display the versatility that the Saints envisioned when they drafted him. He covers in space, he supports the run, he rushes the passer and the occasion rarely has appeared to be too big for him. You love the enthusiasm and the "thump" he adds when he's on the field.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The amazing thing about what running back Dwayne Washington did was that he did it twice – essentially giving the Colts a good look at what he wanted to do – and Indianapolis still couldn't prevent it. On Indianapolis' first possession of the game, once the Saints got a third-down stop and forced the Colts to punt from their 49, Washington rushed the play so well from the right side that Colts running back Jonathan Williams held him to prevent him from getting to the punt. After the 10-yard penalty was assessed and the Colts lined up to punt again, Washington burst in from the left side – while being held again, by running back Jordan Wilkins – and this time, he deflected the punt. New Orleans took possession at its 33, and the block led to a Saints field goal and the first points of the game.