Deep Steel Blueprint: So How Does One Slow Down Drew Brees?

"WHOO! I MADE JAKE LONG LOOK MORTAL FOR A PLAY!"

When trying to think of ways I would hope the Houston Texans could scheme against the New Orleans Saints, I began looking at New Orleans’ first two games. In those games, Green Bay won a shootout and did what it wanted to the Saints' defense, while Chicago was little more than a speed bump. Their Football Outsiders stats reflect these vastly different outcomes as they showed a big jump between the weeks, defensively at least. As I scratched my head and thought, I realized I couldn't talk about the offense. 

Aside from needing to pick up the blitzes drawn up by New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (will we see a rare screen pass?!), I can’t really determine if New Orleans is more susceptible to the run or pass (and if pass, which receiver is the best statistical target).

In other words, there wasn't a lot of meat to a
Houston offense-New Orleans defense angle. Also, it would be ignoring the elephant in the room – Houston’s defense and how improved it really is.

Yes, I suppose it would make more sense to see what
Houston can do to stop the Ariel Breessault. Make the jump to see what, if anything, can be done to stop Drew Brees and his myriad of targets.

 In his last 38 starts (playoff games included), Saints quarterback Drew Brees has had six (6!) games with a quarterback rating below 80. I’ll let you soak that in for a minute. That’s an impressive feat.

If you want to put that statistical nugget into some context, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have eight games below 80 in each of their last 38 starts. For those wondering, as I know I am, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has 10 sub-80 rated games in his last 38 starts...not too Schaubby, but I digress.

The focus here is Brees, and that has been Wade Phillips’ focus since about 6 p.m. last Sunday. This week’s game promises to be a chess match between an elite veteran quarterback and a savvy defensive coordinator. The outcome of said chess match remains shrouded in mystery – except for the fact that we can look at recent history to give us some sort of raging clue.

New Orleans has faced Dallas (running our Wadefense) in each of the past two years. Mr. Brees’ average stat line for the two games is 26/42 for 325 yards one touchdown, and one interception, which translates to an 83.9 rating. Over the past two seasons, Brees’ average game has been 26/38 for 294 yards. two touchdowns, and one interception for a 97.9 rating.

The 14-point drop in QB Rating and near 8-point drop in percentage completion, obviously, comes from pressure. Wade’s defenses have averaged three sacks and six hits against Brees in the last two years – about double the Breesian average of about 1.5 sacks and 3 point-something hits in that same time period.

"Pressure and harass the quarterback? We know that already," says the smart BRB reader, "What's the point of all these words?" The point, beyond setting up a discussion of pass rush packages, is where said rush needs to come from.

In Green Bay’s game, the Packers were able to get two sacks and two hits from the right side of their defense. They were also able to get pressure from blitzing slot cornerbacks. Chicago didn’t get any real pressure on Brees, but one of their rare hits also came from the right defensive tackle.

Mario Williams and Antonio Smith line up more on the defensive left/weak side and will likely do what they’re known for (getting pressure, for those who don’t know), but the key, it appears, is getting that right side pressure.

Not only is the right side where New Orleans has shown more vulnerability, but it would mean Brees couldn’t roll away from Williams and Smith as easily. Guys like J.J. Watt, Connor Barwin, and maybe even a blitzing DeMeco Ryans and/or Glover Quin are going to have to show up on Sunday. As in the Green Bay game, the pressure has to come from everyone, everywhere, at any given moment.

You won’t stop a Drew Brees, but you can knock him around, disrupt New Orleans’ timing, and take away the time for a deep vertical route to develop (and that will be a major point on Sunday). Wade’s the guru of pressure and blitz packages and Sunday’s a test as to how the lesser-known defensive guys can execute.

What other match-ups are key to this game? Is the defense on the back of Mario for Sunday or will the rush come from everywhere? How would you attack New Orleans? Sound off in the comments below, BRB faithful.
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