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Halo 01-16-2010 02:17 PM

Jabari Greer and Saints secondary will bring Kurt Warner back to Earth
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Although most NFL writers are picking New Orleans to win today, very few expect the Saints to slow down Kurt Warner and the Arizona passing attack.

The predictions are hovering around a final score of 40-34, 41-38 or 38-35.

They might be right, but their opinion is based on the universal misconception that Green Bay has a better pass defense than New Orleans.

Look only at passing yards allowed, and the answer is yes. Green Bay finished fifth among 32 NFL teams in the regular season, while New Orleans ranked 26th.

Look at any other aspect of secondary play, and the Saints have the clear edge, particularly when cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter were healthy. It is hard to imagine Warner carving up the Saints the way he did the Packers.

Even counting the seven games Greer missed, New Orleans held opposing passers to a slightly lower efficiency rating (68.6 to 68.8) than Green Bay. When Greer and Porter played, the Saints were not just good against the pass. They were sensational.

Check out the numbers of the eight quarterbacks New Orleans faced before Greer suffered a sports hernia injury:

Matthew Stafford: 16 of 37 for 205 yards, 1 TD, 3 interceptions
Kevin Kolb: 31 of 51 for 391 yards, 2 TDs, 3 interceptions
Trent Edwards: 20 of 35 for 156 yards, 0 TDs, 1 interception
Mark Sanchez: 14 of 27 for 138 yards, 0 TDs, 3 interceptions
Eli Manning: 14 of 31 for 178 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception
Chad Henne: 18 of 36 for 211 yards, 0 TDs, 2 interceptions
Matt Ryan: 19 of 42 for 289 yards, 1 TD, 3 interceptions
Jake Delhomme: 17 of 30 for 201 yards, 0 TDs, 0 interceptions

That group completed 51.6 percent of its passes with five touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Project those numbers over a full season, and the Saints would have allowed the second-fewest touchdown passes in the league, the lowest completion percentage and finished with the most interceptions. Free safety Darren Sharper set an NFL record with 376 return yards on his nine picks.

Clearly, Warner is better than any quarterback on that list, but analysts are getting carried away with his performance against Green Bay. The Cardinals receivers were wide open in the middle of the field all day, and the Packers inexplicably refused to adjust.

Numbers like Warner’s (29-of-33 for 379 yards with five TDs) come once in a lifetime.

Even during his torrid run in last year’s playoffs, he threw for 300 yards only once, settling for 271 against Atlanta, 220 against Carolina and 279 against Philadelphia. When he torched Pittsburgh for 377 yards in the Super Bowl, Arizona scored 23 points.

New Orleans gave up 30 or more points twice this year. Arizona scored more than 31 once before going wild against Green Bay.

If the Saints lose today, the reason won’t be another Warner explosion. He will make his share of plays, but Greer and company are too good to let him have one of his career days.

Jabari Greer and Saints secondary will bring Kurt Warner back to Earth

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