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this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; KEEP AN EYE ON JASON DAVID, MIKE McKENZIE It's accepted that Indianapolis' Peyton Manning is among the best quarterbacks in the NFL, perhaps the best. It's hard to find a quarterback who enters each game as well prepared as Manning ...

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Old 09-06-2007, 10:40 AM   #1
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The Game

It's accepted that Indianapolis' Peyton Manning is among the best quarterbacks in the NFL, perhaps the best. It's hard to find a quarterback who enters each game as well prepared as Manning to exploit an opponent's weaknesses. It's likely that Manning and his teammates have used the past two weeks, or more, to study the Saints' tendencies from a year ago and come up with a game plan for tonight. Manning worked against David, who spent three years in Indianapolis as a starting cornerback before joining the Saints as a free agent in the offseason, so Manning should be aware of David's strengths and weaknesses, including his diminutive stature (5 feet 8). McKenzie is a nine-year veteran who might be a step slower than he once was. The Saints' secondary last season was vulnerable to big plays, so the two cornerbacks will be on the hot seat all night, as will the rest of the Saints' secondary.
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The rookie left tackle (second-round draft choice) will be making his first NFL start after the unexpected retirement of long-time Colts left tackle Tarik Glenn. Ugoh gets to face the Saints' best defensive player, Pro Bowl right defensive end Will Smith. Don't be surprised if the Saints try to bring some pressure from that side of the defense, with Smith, and perhaps linebackers and defensive backs, in an attempt to rattle Ugoh and get at Manning's blind side. If the Colts have an offensive vulnerability, this likely is the spot. It's unusual for a rookie to be able to step into a starting role at such an important position, but the Colts had no choice after Glenn's retirement just before the start of training camp.
It's easy to say that tonight's game could provide plenty of offensive fireworks, considering the defensive reputations of both teams. Neither the Colts nor the Saints have been in the upper echelon of NFL defenses recently, and both have had problems stopping either phase of an opponent's offense -- often relying on their own offense to score more points. So the key to beating Indianapolis could be ball control. And in that respect, the Saints could have an advantage. The Colts will look to do the same, but they really don't have much depth at running back behind second-year pro Joseph Addai. The Saints can pound the ball with Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush. Look for that to happen, along with some quick passes to tight end Eric Johnson. As long as the Saints' offense is on the field, Manning is on the sideline. In a crushing defeat (44-17) last season to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts allowed 375 yards rushing. Defensively, the Saints will look to pressure the left side of the Colts' offensive line, where Ugoh makes his first NFL start.
Harper will be playing in a game that counts for the first time since Week 5 of the 2006 season. In that game, Harper suffered an anterior cruciate ligament knee injury that required reconstructive surgery, ending his season. Harper is fully recovered, and even though he has gone through a full training camp and preseason, tonight's game will be his first full-scale live action since the injury. And he'll be facing a tight end in Clark who can be a big part of Indianapolis' offense. Harper also will be called upon for critical run support as the Colts will likely use Addai as a big part of their offense. But Harper is a well-rounded strong safety, and the Saints have an adequate backup in Jay Bellamy, so there'll be no drop-off at the position should the Saints desire to rotate players to keep them fresh.
Among active NFL coaches, Indianapolis' Tony Dungy has the best winning percentage in the regular season, .648 (114-62), with a minimum of 50 wins, ahead of Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs of the Redskins and Philadelphia's Andy Reid (both at .625). Dungy is the 35th coach in NFL history to have 100 career victories. . . . Since the Saints joined the NFL in 1967, the New Orleans and the Colts teams have played nine times in the regular season, but this is the first meeting since 2003. New Orleans leads the overall series 5-4 but lost the last game 55-21 at the Superdome. That loss snapped a five-game winning streak by the Saints against the Colts. . . . Last season, Saints quarterback Drew Brees led the NFL with 41 completions of 25 yards or more, while leading the league in yards passing (4,418), ahead of Manning's 4,397. Brees also led the league in touchdown passes of 20 yards or more last season with 16. . . . Tonight's game will be the 145th start of Manning's career, the longest career-opening starting streak by any quarterback in league history. . . . The Saints have the longest current winning streak in season-opening games on the road with three. . . . New Orleans is 13-27 in its history on opening day and is 5-7 overall in road openers.
"Adjusting to their tempo at the line of scrimmage is something that you have to work on, and obviously we have a lot of respect for the success that they had. The quarterback does a good job of getting in the right plays. He's very talented, gets rid of the ball quickly, is accurate and tough. It's a big challenge." -- Payton

"We may have lost the game, but you'll be hurting tomorrow." Doug Atkins
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