When New Orleans takes the field on Saturday night against the Cardinals, however, Brees won't be concerned with those numbers. By then it will have been seven weeks since the Saints played like the best team in the NFC. After winning 13 in a row, the highest-scoring club in the league lost its last three games, putting up just 17 points each in a Week 15 loss to the Cowboys and a Week 16 defeat to the Buccaneers, then resting Brees and many other starters in a 23--10 loss at Carolina. For the Saints to fulfill the wishes of those Lusher kids and the rest of the city, Brees will have to awaken the dormant offense and hope the pass blocking is significantly better than it was when Dallas linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer used Brees as a tackling dummy.
The Saints are convinced that by tweaking some protections, they can keep Brees clean and rewire the slumping offense. The tricky part will be combining the varied looks of Payton's schemes that keep defenses off-balance with more secure blocking. Expect the Saints to keep a tight end or back in more than usual to help keep Brees clean, especially if they face the blitz-heavy Vikings or Cowboys in the conference championship game. And look for speedy deep threat Robert Meachem to catch Brees's eye more often.
"All the time since we've played a good all-around game, it sort of feels like going into a bowl game in college," Brees said. "It's been a while. But I feel like the more you win, the harder it gets. You go 11--0, 12--0, 13--0, and the teams you play treat it like the biggest game of the year. We felt that down the stretch. I can confidently say we can fix the things that got us beat, because I know this offense so well. I can tell you I'm not worried."
In a town that once worried about so much, including keeping its NFL team, that message should calm a nervous fan base. Especially when it comes from an athlete as adored and appreciated as any in an American city today.
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