The Saints put on a dazzling display of football on both sides of the ball on Monday night, helping the vaunted Patriot's offense look mediocre and their defense look positively inept. Mike McKensie stepped in to cover for a Saints team without one starting corner, and ended up with an interception and numerous key stops, including denying Moss a fourth and 2 pass that would have kept a drive alive in the Red Zone to bring the Patriots within a touchdown.
“I don't feel like I shut down (Patriots WR Randy Moss ) like that. It was just one of those things that the coaches did a tremendous job with the game plan." The statement is kind, but there was something else going on as well. Not every team has a game plan that allows a player to so immediately make an impact after not playing for a year.
Meanwhile the Patriots looked out of position and bewildered. There were yawning holes in their defense into which Drew Brees was more than happy to take advantage. If we watched a quarter back at the height of his game, we also watched a team play defense that seemed befuddled by their own complexity.
On the Patriots side of the ball, quarterback Tom Brady may not be playing at the heady level of his pre-injury days, but to be fair he was hurried and sacked for much of the game. It's also true that the whole team seemed a step slow. Or has the league finally figured out Belichick's coaching style? Successful teams find it difficult to stop fiddling in a never ending quest to improve. By now we wonder whether Belichick defense is over thinking itself. On the offensive side, the plays seem all too familiar.
No question we watched a muscular Saints team play an emotional and disciplined game. It is difficult to imagine them playing better, while the Patriots seemed anything but inspired. But when a defense with two players who haven't played in a year can shut down a muscular offense, Belichick must be asking himself whether his approach is too tired on the one side, and too intricate on the other.
The Saints played a flawless game. Teams play best when their plans are in the sweet spot between simple and sophistication with the intelligence to adjust. Watch out if they remain there.