FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Saints recognize how little chance they’ll have to win New Orleans’ first NFL title if Peyton Manning is, well, Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl.
But it works both ways in this matchup of powerhouse passing games. For Indianapolis to win its second championship in four seasons, the Colts must shut down Drew Brees. He was even more accurate than the four-time MVP Manning in 2009.
Both defensive backfields know the onus is on them to slow down two sensational passers. What the secondaries must do is be smart. They must be patient yet aggressive, and be forgetful.
As in: Forget about that 55-yard pass play and move on. And be stingier on the next snap.
“With Brees being at quarterback and the weapons that he has, it’s going to be a difficult task,” Colts safety Antoine Bethea said “You’re not going to completely shut them down, but you can control it. ”
Other than Darren Sharper, who had one of the best seasons of his 13-year career in making All-Pro, and Bethea, a Pro Bowler, the Super Bowl defensive backs generally are an anonymous bunch.
Indeed, the Colts’ best-known DB is Bob Sanders, and he played just two games in 2009 before going on injured reserve in early November.
Indy ranked 14th against the pass, in part due to a dangerous pass rush led by ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. New Orleans wasn’t close to that, ranking 26th. With the NFL increasingly being dominated by the air game, that hardly seems like a formula for success.
But the Saints had the league’s top offense, helping them offset defensive woes. They won’t be able to hide coverage issues on Sunday. Not against Manning.
“It’s going to be a matter of us on the back end having the tight coverage on the receivers to make Peyton hold the ball,” Saints cornerback Tracy Porter said. “It’s going to be on our front seven guys to put pressure on him and to get to him. It’s going to work hand-in-hand. The pressure forces turnovers on our end, and us making Peyton hold the ball by not having open receivers is going to allow guys to get there.”
It’s an optimistic view, one that Manning could shatter with his first throw. For that matter, Brees could do the same thing.