What the New Orleans Saints' offense needs to concentrate on to combat the Indianapolis Colts' defense in Super Bowl XLIV:
Dance with who brought them
Drew Brees is the leader of this team, an elite quarterback who has remarkable anticipation and can make all the throws. He's a little more mobile than Peyton Manning, but the Saints don't ask him to make plays with his feet. He uses that ability to move for sightlines, so he can get a better look at his receivers.
"I think he's just uncanny with his movement in the pocket, the ability to find the lanes and throw from different platforms," ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said. "He'll move from his passing slot to get an open receiver. The accuracy is absolutely amazing."
Brees is about 6 feet tall -- five inches shorter than Manning -- and sometimes has to get resourceful to see around his massive offensive linemen.
"I stood there behind the Saints in training camp . . . and I can't see two feet beyond the line of scrimmage," said ESPN's Jon Gruden, who's no taller than 5-10. "He can throw sidearm, he can throw off his back foot. He can reset, start one way, reset and get rid of the ball.
"When the ball comes out of his hand, it's quick. Tremendous pocket presence and a way better athlete than people realize."
Unlike the Colts, who use relatively modest variation in their formations, the Saints are constantly using different formations and personnel groups, and sending people in motion before the snap. Gruden said he wouldn't be surprised to see 30 formations from the Saints on their first 30 offensive snaps.
That empty feeling
UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel, former offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, said he expects the Saints to run a lot of empty-backfield formations that will spread out the defense. Brees might try that in hopes of getting the defense to tip its hand, and then he has the ability to motion players back into the backfield.
"You can get the man and zone reads that way," Neuheisel said. "If you're lined up in empty and they take linebackers outside to cover the outside receivers, now you know they're in man. Then you can bring people back in to block."
Height on the other end
Brees was the shortest starting quarterback in the NFL this season, but he has plenty of big receivers. Big pass catchers such as Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey will have a size advantage against a relatively small Indianapolis defense. The Saints also have stretch-the-field speedsters in players such as Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem and Reggie Bush.
New Orleans is also a much better running team than Indianapolis, led by Pierre Thomas, and the pressure will be on the Saints to move the ball on the ground and convert third downs. The more they can do that, the more they can keep the ball out of Manning's hands.
Jaworski on the communication between Brees and his head coach: "With Drew Brees and Sean Payton, it's all
about personnel packages
and formation variation and motion. They like to confuse the defense. I use the term 'rent space in their mind,' force them to make mistakes."
* Saturday: Colts' defense.