Super Bowl XLIV Preview: Breaking down the Saints’ pressure

It’s an understatement to say that the Saints have battered opposing quarterbacks this postseason. In fact, reports that in two games, New Orleans put 11 hits on Kurt Warner and Brett Favre in its wins over the Cardinals and Vikings over the past two weeks.

Per the report, six of the hits came through the middle of the line, with the other five coming around the ends. Five of the hits were from unblocked defenders, three were from defenders beating blocks and three were coverage sacks where the quarterback held the ball for over five seconds.

What’s interesting is that seven of the 11 hits came when the Saints had five or more defensive backs on the field, meaning Gregg Williams isn’t necessarily putting his cornerbacks on islands when he sends pressure. Also, five of the 11 hits came in the first quarter, but just two hits came in the fourth, which obviously suggests that Williams is willing to take more gambles earlier in the game but not in crunch time when scores are vital.

In last weekend’s AFC Championship, the Jets pressured Peyton Manning with some success early in the game, but the Colts neutralized New York’s aggressiveness towards the end of the first half when they switched to the no-huddle. Manning is highly skilled at getting the ball out of his hand early and putting the ball in the air before his receivers are out of their breaks. That’s part of what makes him so effective and how he burns opponents with the passing game.

By looking at the stats, it appears that Williams is aggressive but isn’t reckless with his pressure. He’ll send multiple defenders at the opposing quarterback, but will blanket coverage over the top so that his defensive backs won’t get beat deep. No quarterback likes defenders in his face, so if the Saints can drum up pressure up the middle they might have success against Manning early on. But the key is whether or not they can produce stops in the second half when Williams isn’t as aggressive. The Jets couldn’t and that’s why they’ll be at home next Sunday instead of in Miami.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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