It didn’t take long for Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to look at tape of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ mistakes - make that, his mistake - this season.
“I mean, he’s playing at an insane level right now,” Schwartz said of Brees, who has thrown 21 touchdown passes against just one interception. “I looked at his interception reel. That was one. Didn’t take us long to get through the sack and interception reel. His incompletions, didn’t take us long to get through those.”
Brees, 39, will pose a phenomenal challenge to the reeling Eagles’ defense Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The 8-1 Saints have rolled up eight consecutive victories - the longest winning streak in the NFL - and the 4-5 Eagles are hurting in the secondary, not a comfortable situation for any defense to be in against a quarterback who leads the league in completion percentage (77.3). Not counting kneeldowns, New Orleans has points on 16 of its last 19 possessions.
Starting cornerback Ronald Darby sustained a torn ACL in the Eagles’ 27-20 loss to Dallas last Sunday and will miss the rest of the season. Fellow starting cornerback Jalen Mills may miss the next week or two with a foot injury.
The Saints are averaging a league-best 36.7 points a game, and they are doing it with the characteristic balance of a Sean Payton offense. Even though Michael Thomas is by far Brees’ favorite target - Thomas has 78 catches for 950 yards and seven touchdowns while the closest receiver to him, rookie Tre-Quan Smith, has 12 receptions - Brees is spreading the wealth.
“I’m just playing ball and trying to be a good decision-maker,” Brees said. “(Thomas) knows when he gets open, I get the ball to him. That’s the job of the quarterback - find the guys who are open and throw it to them.”
The Saints added to Brees’ potential targets this week by signing 13-year veteran receiver Brandon Marshall, who practiced Wednesday and may play Sunday despite not being totally familiar with the Saints’ offense.
“He’s a very smart, veteran guy,” Brees said of the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Marshall. “He’s very fluid. I’ve seen him in a lot of different offenses, and he really can be successful both as an outside receiver and as an inside receiver. He’s very versatile. He’s a big target with a big catch radius. Watching him run was pretty impressive.”
The Eagles have a sense of have Marshall might be used.
“I think he’s a red zone threat with his size,” said Eagles coach Doug Pederson, “and so I think that’s where we will see him a little bit is down there.”
The Saints have beaten five consecutive opponents who were in first or second place in their division at the time they played. The lone negative of the last three weeks has been the defense allowing a touchdown drive on the opening drive.
With the Saints scoring points video-game style - they have scored on 61 percent of their drives - their defense has not had to press.
“We do not have to be superheroes,” said linebacker Alex Anzalone.
Even though quarterback Carson Wentz has completed 71 percent of his passes with 15 touchdown passes and only three interceptions, the Eagles have scored more than 24 points in a game just once this season.
—Field Level Media