The New Orleans Saints are formidable.
To suggest otherwise would be to say today that water isn’t wet, the sun doesn’t rise in the east and Drew Brees isn’t human.
Brees, though, strains credulity on that one.
The Saints’ starting quarterback returned after a five-game absence and New Orleans (7-1) responded to his presence by posting a 31-9 victory over Arizona on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, its third 30-point game in its last four and its sixth consecutive win.
But he wasn’t the only standout for the Saints, who posted their most lopsided victory of the season.
OFFENSE: OK, it’s true that Brees wasn’t the only offensive standout for the Saints. But on Sunday, he was the lead standout. Special consideration goes to receiver Michael Thomas (11 catches on as many targets, for 112 yards and a touchdown), running back Latavius Murray (21 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown, and nine catches for 55 yards and a touchdown) and the offensive line, which has been nothing short of spectacular the last two games. But Brees missed five straight games after thumb surgery, and came back Sunday to complete 79 percent of his passes (34 of 43) for 373 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception. The pick, he said, simply was a bad decision and throw, but there isn’t much else that he should want back from Sunday’s game. The Saints said he’d come back when he was ready, and he was ready.
DEFENSE: All of them. The whole unit. Front to back, back to front, and everything in the middle. If you’re looking for a defensive star from Sunday’s game, it’s kind of difficult to single out an individual, because the totality of team play that has been on display for the last month really stood out Sunday. The Saints allowed 237 yards, the fourth consecutive week they’ve given up 257 or less. They allowed 40 rushing yards on 11 carries (the last two opponents have totaled 56 on 18 carries). Ten times in 12 third-down attempts, the Saints got a stop and on both of the Cardinals’ fourth-down attempts, New Orleans shut the door. Four sacks, five tackles for loss, two passes defensed and two red-zone stops in as many attempts by Arizona – asking for much more would be greedy. But nowadays, the Saints seem capable of giving it.
SPECIAL TEAMS: We’ll go with Deonte Harris here, not so much for what he did, but for what he hasn’t done the last couple of weeks. Specifically, he hasn’t made bad decisions in terms of fielding the ball, and he hasn’t put it on the ground. Maybe, those things seem minuscule, but considering each had been a bit of a problem in the first four games, it’s good to see that coaching and his instincts appear to be syncing. Three punt returns for 17 yards, and a couple of fair catches, don’t jump off the page, but he’s not taking unnecessary risks and, probably, he should have two punt return touchdowns this season (Saints coaches didn’t agree with the penalty in Chicago that erased his score).