If you had asked most New Orleans Saints fans which rookie player would make the biggest plays against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, they would have told you “Reggie Bush.”
But in the Saints 31-14 spanking of the Bucs, it turned out to be players selected with the 210th and 252nd overall picks that came through big.
Due to injuries to starting left tackle Jammal Brown and all-pro wide-out Joe Horn, rookie offensive lineman Zach Strief and wide receiver Marques Colston were pushed into starting roles and they played like veterans.
Strief, a 6-6, 335-pounder from Northwestern, saw his first playing time of the season going one-on-one against one of the best pass rushers in the game, Simeon Rice.
And our guy basically “pitched a shutout,” giving up no quarterback sacks, no quarterback hurries and allowing just two tackles.
Colston, who had already become one of quarterback Drew Brees’ favorite targets, caught 11 passes for 123 yards and 1 score against the Bucs.
What made this even more impressive is the fact that he did this without having Horn opposite him. And when coverages shifted to his side of the field, he continually worked himself open and caught everything thrown his way.
Brees continues to play at an all-pro level and his hot-hand passing numbers of 24 of 32 for 314 yards and three scores, and two touchdown throws to former LSU speedster Devery Henderson, again ring very impressive.
Saints defense was every bit as good as the offense
With all the talk about the Saints BIG offensive numbers, let’s not forget about the defense that constantly frustrated and pressured Bucs rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
Kudos have to go out to defensive end Charles Grant and outside linebacker Scott Fujita, who every week seem to come up with huge defensive plays, and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs.
Gibbs’ multiple defensive schemes and aggressive play-calling are a major reason that the Saints are percolating at 6-2 at the mid-point of the season. Let’s also not forget the play of defensive end Will Smith, who registered two quarterback sacks and forced a fumble against the Bucs.
Saints rookie Colston, who summed up the team’s overall philosophy best after the game.
“The most important thing right now is that we are 6-2 - and that’s number one in my mind,” Colston said.
“Personal accolades, they can only take you so far. Winning is paramount.”
Man, oh man, what a wild football ride for Saints fans - and the world champion Pittsburgh Steelers are next on the schedule!
LSU back on track & not a moment too soon
There’s no question that the LSU Tigers 28-24 win over the Tennessee Volunteers was a signature victory in the Les Miles-era in Tigertown.
After suffering two tough defeats on the road against Auburn and Florida, Miles and his kids needed a win against a top club and this one turned out to be a classic battle of two top fifteen rated clubs.
It was the good, the bad and the ugly for Tiger quarterback Jamarcus Russell who suffered through three pass interceptions and a few other bad throws in his first road win of the season, but when the chips were on the line the big, strong-armed signal caller came through.
With less than 10 seconds left in the game, Russell hit wide receiver Early Doucet in the end zone for his third touchdown throw of the game, sealing the win for the Tigers.
Russell completed 24 of his 36 passes for 247 yards, but what will be remembered most is his late game heroics.
The future first-round NFL draft choice, who also rushed for 71 yards against the Vols, has led the Tigers to five fourth-quarter or overtime wins the past two years. You’d think that maybe those numbers would get some of the critics of his play off his back ... but I doubt it.
It’s clear, however, that the Tigers may have finally found a “work-horse” running back in freshman Keiland Williams. The Lafayette-native rushed for 53 yards on 17 carries and scored one touchdown.
I have a strong feeling this young man is a future star in college football.
So relax, Tiger fans, and enjoy this win. It was very special.