NFL Preview - San Diego (3-1) at New Orleans (0-4)|
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Drew Brees is on the verge of history and Sean Payton will
be there to see it.
Payton, the suspended New Orleans Saints head coach, has been given
permission to attend the club's Week 5 game against the San Diego Chargers on
Sunday night as Brees prepares to break one of the NFL's most enduring
Brees, who began his NFL career with San Diego, passed for 446 yards and
three touchdowns in the Saints' 28-27 loss at Green Bay last Sunday and the
Pro Bowl signal-caller has now tossed at least one TD pass in an amazing 47
consecutive games, matching Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas (1956-60) for the
longest streak in NFL history.
Payton, of course, is currently serving a year-long suspension for his role in
the Saints illegal bounty program from 2009-2011, which included payments to
players for inflicting game-ending injuries on competitors.
Payton, as well as assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey
Loomis, were to avoid any contact with the team during their ban, but Brees
lobbied commissioner Roger Goodell for the three to be in attendance Sunday as
he tries to break Unitas' record.
"Commissioner Goodell has granted that permission," read a statement on
NFL.com. "Coaches Payton and Vitt and Mickey Loomis will be permitted to watch
the game in a private area of the stadium and will have no contact with the
Loomis was suspended eight games while Vitt will take over as interim head
coach in Week 8. The Saints have lost their first four games under offensive
line coach Aaron Kromer.
Meanwhile, Unitas' mark of 47 consecutive games with a TD pass stood alone for
18,291 days and will likely fall when San Diego visits Bourbon Street. Some
have called this record as the equivalent to Joe DiMaggio's brilliant 56-game
hitting streak in baseball.
A week ago New Orleans nearly got its first win when Garrett Hartley drilled a
43-yard field to take the lead in Green Bay but David Thomas was called for
holding, which negated the kick.
After an encroachment call on Green Bay, Hartley pulled his 48-yard attempt
wide left and the Packers took over with 2:49 to go. They were able to run out
the clock and secure the win courtesy of a tough catch by James Jones on 3rd-
"We need to find a way to win," said Kromer. "(The players) are going to be a
little bit disheartened but we're going to fight back and we're going to climb
With a 20-yard first-quarter scoring pass to Marques Colston, Brees, who
hasn't had a game without a TD pass since Oct. 4, 2009, tied Unitas.
"Obviously I'd like to be sitting here talking about (the record) after a win,
but certainly it's significant to even be in the same realm as a guy like
Johnny Unitas," said Brees.
As for the Chargers, Jackie Battle had one receiving touchdown and ran for a
score as San Diego thumped Kansas City, 37-20, at Arrowhead Stadium last week.
Philip Rivers was 18-of-23 passing for 209 yards with two touchdowns and
Antonio Gates had three catches for 59 yards for the Chargers, who bounced
back from a 27-3 home setback to Atlanta and improved to 2-0 in the AFC West.
"I thought our guys had a great week of preparation responding from the game
last week. I thought we got a great performance from our defense," Chargers
head coach Norv Turner said. "It was obviously critical for us to come in here
The Chargers and Saints will be meeting for the first time since 2008 when the
teams played in the International Series game at London's Wembley Stadium. San
Diego leads the all-time series 7-3 but NOLA has taken two of the past three,
including a 37-32 triumph in London when Brees passed for 339 yards and TDs.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Saints defense has been so poor this season it's almost imperative that
Brees turns this into a basketball game on turf. His accuracy remains among
the best in the NFL and he has plenty of weapons with Colston and Lance Moore
as well as tight end Jimmy Graham and scatback Darren Sproles.
The last time the San Diego defense saw an offense that was this high-powered
(Atlanta) it faltered badly. The key is the pass rush. The Chargers only have
six sacks through three games and no player under than linebacker Shaun
Phillips, who has 3 1/2 sacks, has more than one.
Knowing this will be high-scoring Rivers will likely try to air it out early
and often. Rivers surpassed the 25,000-yard passing mark last week, reaching
the milestone in 3,144 attempts, the fifth-fastest in NFL history. He doesn't
have Brees' weapons but Malcom Floyd and veteran tight end Antonio Gates are
both capable of doing some significant damage.
"We have to find a way to affect the quarterback more," Saints defensive
coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said.
This almost has the feel of an Arena Football League game with two imposing
offenses taking on two shaky defensive units. The Chargers defense is a little
better equipped to get a stop every now and again but the Superdome is also a
big time advantage and it might be enough to get New Orleans in the black for
the first time in 2012
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saints 30, Chargers 24
10/04 13:33:35 ET