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this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; As Super Bowl champions, the Indianapolis Colts knew long ago they would have the spotlight as the season’s opening game Thursday night of the NFL’s Kickoff Weekend. What they didn’t know in the six weeks between their Super Bowl XLI ...

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Old 09-06-2007, 04:48 PM   #1
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"must See Tv"

As Super Bowl champions, the Indianapolis Colts knew long ago they would have the spotlight as the season’s opening game Thursday night of the NFL’s Kickoff Weekend.

What they didn’t know in the six weeks between their Super Bowl XLI victory over the Chicago Bears and the announcement of the game in late March was their opponent.

But quarterback Peyton Manning had an idea, narrowing it down to the New England Patriots, whom the Colts defeated in the AFC Championship game, and the New Orleans Saints, his hometown team that advanced to the NFC title game for the first time last season.

A Manning vs. Tom Brady showdown was extremely attractive, considering they have three Super Bowl MVP awards and four rings between them. But they met in the 2004 season opener after the Patriots won their second title, prompting the NFL to go for another marquee matchup.

So tonight, just minutes after the Colts drop their long overdue championship banner in the RCA Dome, they’ll go to work on adding another one when they face Drew Brees and the Saints at 7:30 p.m. (NBC and WJBO-AM, 1150).

“I figured it would be the Patriots or Saints,” Manning said this week, “because (the NFL) wants to put two entertaining teams on TV.”

The NFL could hardly have done better. Brees and Manning are the catalysts for two of the top offenses in the league. The Saints led the NFL a year ago with 6,264 total yards while the Colts were third at 6,070 yards.

Brees, who earned All-Pro honors to end Manning’s three-year run, threw for a league-high 4,418 yards — just 21 more than Manning’s 4,397 total.

Manning completed 65 percent of his passes and had 31 touchdowns to only nine interceptions; Brees’ completion percentage of 64.3 yielded 26 TDs — including 20 over an eight-game stretch.

It’s the kind of matchup Saints coach Sean Payton, a former record-setting Division I-AA quarterback at Eastern Illinois University and longtime quarterbacks coach, loves to see.

“They’re two of the best right now,” Payton said when asked if they were the top quarterbacks in the league. “Both of these guys are accomplished in what they’re doing.

“Peyton’s been a Pro Bowl player for a while now and is coming off a Super Bowl win,” he said. “Drew has come back from his (shoulder) injury and has performed at a high level.”

While Manning has done it over a longer period of time with at least 3,700 passing yards in each of his nine seasons and 275 career TD passes, Brees took a major leap in his still-young career last season.

Benefitting from Payton’s imaginative play calling and an array of weapons, Brees bounced back from a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder to easily author the most productive season by a quarterback in Saints history.

In short, he has everything Payton was looking for a year ago.

“I think he has good arm strength and he’s a quick decision maker,” Payton said. “I think he does a great job with his feet in the pocket of creating and buying time, so he’s got good awareness and good presence. Decision-making and accuracy to me are critical.”

The best part is Payton said Brees hasn’t reached his peak yet.
“I feel like every year since 2004, I have made a jump,” Brees said. “I hope to continue to make a jump like that every season. The more you play, the more experience you gain and the more you get used to seeing certain looks.”

It helps when you have playmakers like running backs Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush, and wide receivers Marques Colston and Devery Henderson on your side.

Just like Manning has a number of weapons in Pro Bowl wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, a New Orleans native, and running back Joseph Addai, a former LSU standout.

It’s enough for Saints cornerback Jason David, who played the last three seasons for the Colts before leaving as a restricted free agent, to label the game as “must-see TV” because of the prolific offenses.

“That’s kind of what people will see it as on paper,” Manning said. “But both teams have excellent defenses. I know our offense has gotten a lot of attention here, but our defense here was huge last year — especially in the postseason — and they’re excited about their potential this year.

“I know about the Saints offense, but our focus is the defense. That’s plenty to think about when you’re trying to get (defensive ends) Charles Grant and Will Smith blocked and trying to get open on (cornerback) Mike McKenzie. It’ll be a great challenge for our offense.”

If last season is any indication, both offenses will be up to it.


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