Packers secondary faces tough test in New Orleans
GREEN BAY -- Nick Collins probably ruined his chances of getting a job at ESPN promoting the upcoming "Monday Night Football" showdown between his Packers and the New Orleans Saints, but the Green Bay safety didn't seem to mind.
Even though the marquee matchup of Monday night's game is clearly the Saints' top-ranked passing game against the Packers' third-rated pass defense, Collins had no interest in helping boost viewership by playing up the secondary's challenge against Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his wide receiver corps.
"We're not trying to compare, `They're the No. 1 offense, they're the No. 3 defense,' " said Collins, who is tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions on the season, three of which he has returned for touchdowns.
"Don't get me wrong, it's going to be a great challenge for us. But we aren't going to try to hype it up. We're just going to play football. We don't care if they put up 500 yards on us. We just want to win the game."
And Collins wasn't the only one downplaying the head-to-head, strength-against-strength angle.
"Whenever you run into something like this, it's generally never the case (once the game starts)," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Certainly, it's one aspect of the game, but there's so many other things that go into it. ... The turnovers, the time of possession, being good on third down -- those are all things that I think will play the biggest role."
The numbers suggest otherwise.
The Saints enter the game with the No. 1-rated offense in the league, thanks largely to their passing game, which averages an NFL-high 319.7 yards per game. Brees has thrown for more yards in the first 10 games of the season than any player in NFL history (3,251 yards), putting him on pace to break Dan Marino's NFL record for most passing yards in a single season (5,084, set in 1984). He also has the fourth-highest passer rating (95.4) despite throwing more passes than any other quarterback (398). _ _ In fact, Brees admitted this week that it reminds him a little bit of his college days at Purdue, where he was constantly dropping back to pass -- including an NCAA-record 83 times in a 1998 game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium.
"Obviously at Purdue it was that spread offense and things got pretty crazy at times there with getting in the shotgun and just airing it out," Brees said. "I think with what we do here, I think it's very calculated. We're not just wingin' it. We have a plan. (But) it's a fun system to play in. I love our head coach's mentality, that aggressive mentality. It's definitely a quarterback-friendly offense."
On the other side is the Packers' pass defense, which ranks third in the NFL in passing yards allowed (176.3), leads the league in lowest opponent passer rating (59.5) and completion percentage (51.5) and has an NFL-high 16 interceptions (including six for TDs). Brees, incidentally, has thrown 11 interceptions, second only to league-leader leader Brett Favre (12).
"I think it's going to be a fun game," No. 3 cornerback Tramon Williams said. "It gets me excited because, we're the No. 3 pass defense in the league, and what do they like to do? They like to pass. What do we like to do? We like to intercept the ball. It gives us a lot of opportunities to do what we do. That's how I look at it."
While Brees said he knows what to expect lots of man-to-man, press coverage from the Packers -- "It's one thing to know what they're doing, it's another thing to execute against it," he said -- and that they're leading the league in interceptions, he can't alter his game as a result.
"They don't really try to fool you in regards to what they're playing. They're just going to cover you and present problems for you," Brees said. "But you never want to be hesitant or feel like, `Hey, I can't throw a pick' or `I can't make a mistake' or whatever. It's going to happen from time to time."_
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