First, a couple of facts. Drew Brees 6’0 tall. That's a little shorter than usual for an NFL quarterback. He releases the ball very quickly. He is a rhythm passer. He doesn't usually stand for a long time in the pocket, surveying the field. He usually throws the ball very early, within 3 or 4 seconds of taking the snap. Frequently he throws the ball to a spot, anticipating the receiver making a break and getting the ball. He is a quick runner, and if necessary he can scramble for yardage. He has only been sacked about a dozen times this year.
Here are some ideas on stopping the Brees passing game.
- Contain him in the pocket. Keep at least one man home, in front of the pocket, and prevent Brees from escaping via scramble.
- Pass rushers get their hands up, jump, and knock down passes. They will also obscure Brees's vision so he is less likely to see an open receiver. This is very useful for the defense because Drew Brees is only 6'0. Keeping a defender or two in front of the pocket is also helpful for knocking down passes.
- Show different looks. Use a delay blitz by a linebacker once in a while. The Falcons did this, got a strip-sack of Brees and scored a touchdown on their fumble recovery. Drop a defensive end into coverage sometimes to take away underneath routes. Show a safety blitz and then drop into coverage.
- Attack his favorite spot. Brees loves to throw the ball from a spot 6 yards behind the center. Even if he takes a deeper drop, he will often step up and throw from that spot. Defensive ends and blitzers can attack that spot, and it will throw Brees out of rhythm.
- Limit the running game. Much of the success of the Saints passing attack has resulted due to defenses playing the run. Put the Saints in pass-only situations, and take advantage of them.
- Cover the receivers. It looks like the Cover-2 scheme is the thing to use. This is the Vikings' base defense. According to a Saints fan over at Canal Street Chronicles, the Saints are 4-9 under Sean Payton when playing teams with the Cover-2, and three of the wins came against the Buccaneers.
- Tackle the receivers and prevent yards after the catch.
- Sack the quarterback. I don't care what the stats are, if coverage works, we can get to Brees and sack him.
- Intercept the ball.