The League

David Larimer
Two-time defending Gameday pick-em champion

David Larimer

An assistant NFL editor at the The Washington Post

New Orleans at Washington, Week 2


Sunday, 1 p.m.

Since he joined the Saints in 2006, quarterback Drew Brees has passed for 9,184 yards, most in the NFL, and 57 touchdowns, best in the NFC. Since he enrolled at Auburn in 2001, Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell leads the world in offensive coordinators. Brees started this season in his expected form, torching the Buccaneers for 343 yards and three touchdowns in a Week 1 victory. Campbell invited further skepticism over whether he is suited to Jim Zorn's West Coast offense, with 133 yards and one touchdown in a 16-7 loss to the Giants.

And yet, the defenses could be key in this matchup. Last season, the Saints' defense bore much of the blame for the team's failure to make the playoffs, ranking 26th in total yards allowed and 25th in points allowed. When the offense struggled over the first four games, the defense yielded 119 points, 103 in the first three alone, and New Orleans couldn't dig out from the 0-4 start.

The Saints overhauled, adding starters Sedrick Ellis and Tracy Porter through the draft and Jonathan Vilma and Randall Gay through free agency. Last week, the unit didn't exactly lock down the Bucs (352 yards allowed, 146 rushing, 7.3 yards per carry), but it was good enough to inspire a vote of confidence from Coach Sean Payton. Leading 24-20 and taking possession with 4 minutes 40 seconds to play, Payton called threestraight running plays, then punted with 2:24 left. The defense bent yet again, allowing Tampa Bay to drive to its 24-yard line, before linebacker Scott Fujita made the game-sealing interception with 40 seconds left. It was good enough, which was more than the Saints could say last season. Now they must prove that aren't just what Campbell and the Redskins need to boost their confidence with their new offense.

The Redskins' defense, for its part, is giving proper respect to the Saints, even top wideout Marques Colston (thumb surgery) won't play. Colston had just three catches for 26 yards last week, when he was hurt, but Brees never lacked for big plays: His three touchdowns were all for 39 yards or longer. He spread the ball, too, with seven completions to four wideouts, 10 to running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas and six to tight end Jeremy Shockey. New Orleans totaled 438 yards, a potential problem for a Redskins defense that, while solid in the second half against the Giants, admittedly could not get off the field in the decisive first half.

By David Larimer  |  September 12, 2008; 2:00 PM ET  | Category:  Post Gameday Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: N.Y. Giants at St. Louis, Week 2 | Next: Post Gameday Chat, Week 2: Games We Might Want to Watch

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