(CBS Seattle/CBS Local) — The New Orleans Saints beat the Houston Texans in a Week 1 nail-biter. Drew Brees’s downfield passing and efficient last-minute clock management was largely to thank. That performance would not be duplicated in Week 2; Brees left the game in the first quarter with an injured thumb on his throwing hand. (He will require surgery and miss at least six weeks.) Teddy Bridgewater filled in capably, but the Saints failed to get the ball across the goal line, losing 30-9 to the Los Angeles Rams.
The Saints stay on the road in Week 3, traveling to Seattle to face the undefeated Seahawks. Seattle held on to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 21-20 in Week 1, despite Andy Dalton’s career day (35-51 passing, 415 yards). They prevailed again over the Pittsburgh Steelers, 28-26, in Week 2, with the help of Ben Roethlisberger’s early departure with an injured elbow. Neither of their opponents has won a game yet. Still, undefeated is undefeated, as long as it lasts. And they will be tested this Sunday.
Some uncertainty hangs over the Saints-Seahawks Week 3 matchup. Can Bridgewater harness all of the Saints’ offensive weapons? Are the Seahawks good or just lucky? That first question may be answered this Sunday, the second probably won’t.
The New Orleans offense is loaded. Alvin Kamara remains among the most electrifying running backs in the NFL and is a threat to put up 100+ total yards in any given week. Wideout Michael Thomas, also among the best at his position, already has 20 catches this season. Then there’s Jared Cook, Ted Ginn Jr. and Tre’Quan Smith. Bridgewater has way more options than he ever had in Minnesota, if he can get the ball in their hands. With a full week of preparation, he will enter Sunday with a game plan that plays to his strengths.
Bill Cowher, former NFL coach and studio analyst on The NFL Today, thinks Bridgewater will be in a position to succeed. “With a lot of these quarterbacks, particularly when you’re talking about backups, getting a full week of preparation is really imperative. They get comfortable in the huddle and get as many reps as possible in preparation for the game. Teddy has been down there for a couple of years in that system.”
The Saints defense, which showed a little life last week, limiting the Rams to just two field goals in the first half, can make Bridgewater’s life a little easier. They’ve done a good job getting pressure so far, amassing nine sacks. But one of last season’s better rushing defenses hasn’t been effective so far, allowing 180 yards on the ground to the Texans and 115 to the Rams. They’ll be up against the two-headed ground attack of a Seahawks team that looks to run first and plowed over the Steelers last week.
“The Seahawks are playing really well right now,” according to Cowher. “It’s a football team that their identity is built around running the football. Chris Carson has been very good, and last week Rashad Penny got into the game and played very well.”
But establishing the run can set up the pass, as has been seen so many times. And a mobile quarterback like Russell Wilson can keep a defense on its heels. He certainly had his way against the Steelers, torching them for 300 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
“Russell Wilson has been very effective, particularly late in games, at extending drives,” observes Cowher. “He does a very good job of staying in the pocket and being comfortable in the pocket, making his throws down the field. But at the same time, if he has to take off and get out of the pocket, he is very effective at doing that as well.”
With Brees out, and the game in Seattle, the Seahawks have the advantage over the Saints. And the current line (-4) reflects as much. CenturyLink Field also provides one of the NFL’s better home-field advantages. A big day from Bridgewater could elevate New Orleans, as it aims to stay afloat. A Seattle win, however, won’t silence those who feel the undefeated Seahawks still have something to prove.
The Saints play the Seahawks Sunday @ 1:25 PT on CBS.