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NFL Preview - Miami (3-0) at New Orleans (3-0)



By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Laissez les bons temps rouler.

That's the Cajun phrase which means: "Let the good times roll."

And the good times are certainly rolling again in New Orleans now that head coach Sean Payton is back on the sidelines after a year away from the game due to the Bountygate scandal.

Fresh off a dominating 31-7 win over Arizona at the Superdome, the unbeaten Saints will host the Miami Dolphins on "Monday Night Football" in a matchup of two of the NFL's seven unblemished teams entering Week 4.

A methodical offense spearheaded by All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees and an improved attacking defense under new coordinator Rob Ryan have spurred the Saints to their third 3-0 start under Payton.

New Orleans has improved to 4-0 only three times in franchise history: 1991, 1993 and 2009.

The Saints compiled a season-high 423 total net yards against the Cardinals in Week 3 behind Brees, who completed 29-of-46 passes for 342 yards with three touchdowns. The Pro-Bowler's top target was tight end Jimmy Graham, who led the team in receiving with nine receptions for 134 yards and two TDs and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Ryan's defense, meanwhile, only allowed one score on the opening drive of the game and two entries into the red zone. Emerging defensive star Cameron Jordan recorded two sacks, while cornerback Keenan Lewis, a free agent acquisition from Pittsburgh, and rookie first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro each intercepted Cards QB Carson Palmer.

"It's early but we're pleased with the start," Payton said. "As there is every week, there are some things we want to look at and clean up and get corrected."

The Saints will face a stiff challenge on Monday from a rejuvenated Dolphins team under second-year head coach Joe Philbin, who has Miami off to its first 3-0 start since 2002.

Sophomore QB Ryan Tannehill threw his second touchdown pass with 38 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter in Week 3, sending the Dolphins to a 27-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

After Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant missed a 35-yard field goal wide right that would have given the Falcons a six-point lead with 4:46 to play, Tannehill led the Dolphins on a 13-play drive that ended with Dion Sims' one-handed, over-the-shoulder grab from a yard out off play-action.

"I didn't really think about the situation, everything was just instinctive," Sims said. "The linebacker grabbed my arm so I just reached up with my free arm and brought it in."

Miami safety Jimmy Wilson them picked off Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan to seal the win.

Tannehill completed 24-of-35 passes for 236 yards with Sims and receiver Brian Hartline catching scoring passes.

The Saints and Dolphins have met 10 times in the regular season with Miami holding a 6-4 all-time series edge. NOLA captured the last contest, a 46-34 victory on Oct. 25, 2009 in Miami, a game in which the Saints matched their biggest comeback in franchise history when they rebounded from a 24-3 deficit with five seconds left in the first half.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

In Week 3, Brees extended his streak of consecutive 300-yard passing games to eight, a game behind his own NFL record. He has also won eight consecutive starts on "Monday Night Football" and has a 120.6 passer rating in those contests, completing 194-of-273 passes (71.1 percent) for 2,467 yards (308.4 per game) with 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

"We are focusing on an excellent New Orleans team we have to get ready for," Philbin said. "We have to do a lot of preparation and a little extra work to get familiar with their schemes and personnel."

Getting familiar with Brees is far easier said than done. He's on a very short list of signal callers -- along with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and perhaps Ryan -- who can comprehend everything being thrown at him by an opposing defense and adjust on the fly at the line of scrimmage.

"With Drew it starts with being efficient, leading his team to opportunities to win," Payton said. "He's someone that's very prepared, very accurate and gets rid of the ball very quickly. The expectation level that he has for himself is very high."

Graham, a matchup nightmare from the slot who leads the Saints in all receiving categories with 23 receptions for 358 yards and four TDs, has been Brees' go-to-guy early the season.

"He's very tall, he's got very good athleticism and very good ball skills," Payton said when asked about his tight end. "His ability to transition in routes and torque his body in ways that allow him to catch balls behind, balls on-top or balls low (really helps)."

"He's kind of hard to match up with, no matter how big or fast you are and I think more so than anything is his fire and passion for the game," Brees added. "He wants to be a great player, he's very versatile, very athletic. I think his basketball background certainly helps him in that regard. I kind of know what that basketball background can do for you as far as body position, body control, your ability to kind of see the ball, go up and get it."

Philbin will need to find a way to slow the Brees-to-Graham juggernaut down a bit. Cornerback Brent Grimes knows Brees and Co. well from his time in Atlanta while the Miami pass rush -- led by Cameron Wake -- really needs to bring it.

Wake, however, has been listed as questionable on the Dolphins' injury report due to a sprained MCL. Miami defensive tackle Paul Soliai and linebacker Koa Misi are also iffy for the contest.

The Saints defense has been bolstered by Rob Ryan along with the additions of Lewis and Vaccaro in the defensive backfield as well as the emergence of Jordan up front. Jordan, the son of former Vikings Pro Bowl tight end Steve Jordan, leads New Orleans with three sacks.

Ryan's unit is also dealing with some injuries though as defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (calf) and safety Roman Harper (knee) have already been ruled out.

The Dolphins offense isn't all that dynamic but they have excelled when it counts. Miami has outscored opponents 41-16 in the second half this season and leads the NFL in red zone efficiency at 87.5 percent.

"I think it's an all-around effort. I think guys are comfortable in the system now, being our second year here," Tannehill said of the team's improved offense.

Meanwhile, Tannehill has proved to be one of the better QBs in the fourth quarter this season, completing 21-of-28 passes for 192 yards in the final frame.

"He's certainly confident, you can just see that," Payton said when discussing Tannehill. "Most importantly, that position, the key is to lead their team to wins and give them a chance and you can see him do that."

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Dolphins look like a legitimate contender in the AFC East but getting the better of Brees in the Superdome at this stage is a little too much to ask for a second-year QB like Tannehill who is still trying to feel his way through the process.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saints 30, Dolphins 20

09/30 09:02:24 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
CAR 4
TOR 1
Final
DUKE 66
UCONN 56
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CHA
 
Final
CHI 103
NYK 97
Final
HOU 90
NOP 99
Final
SAC 107
MIL 108
Final
GSW 114
OKC 109
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CHA
 
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
UTA
 
7:30pm Tonight
CLE
BRK
 
7:30pm Tonight
BOS
MIN
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
TOR
 
7:30pm Tonight
MIA
WAS
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
CHI
 
8:00pm Tonight
SAN
POR
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
LAC
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
OKC
 
Final
RICE 72
STTHOMASTX 61
 
Final
UVA 70
CLST 54
Final
LIU 69
FIU 58
 
Final
STET 67
GSOUT 76
 
Final
QUIN 80
LEH 65
 
Final
SFLA 69
SHU 89
Final
RICH 65
SALA 54
Final
CAN 60
USB 59
 
Final
DEL 62
TEMPL 82
Final
WCU 56
WRST 69
 
Final
VERM 56
YALE 57
 
Final
SDKST 75
IDST 72
 
Final
RIDE 62
MRGST 48
 
Final
LATU 79
NICST 54
 
Final
CHAR 75
APP 65
Final
MISS 71
CCAR 68
 
Final
DUKE 66
UCONN 56
Final
BRAD 80
EUREK 38
 
Final
PEAY 76
OAKC 52
 
Final
JST 66
SMISS 46
 
Final
SD 55
MNTST 53
 
Final
UAB 70
LSU 79
Final
EVAN 81
OHIO 69
 
Final
CSFU 72
CSDH 50
 
Final
ORST 90
DEP 59
Final
PAC 69
NEV 65
Final
USF 77
PORST 40
 
Final
IDAHO 86
WALLA 39
 
Final
UTST 57
CALST 56
 
1:30pm Today
YOUNG
WILB
 
2:00pm Today
TULA
JST
 
6:00pm Tonight
RAD
SIENA
 
7:00pm Tonight
MERC
COOK
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUCK
CASEWEST
 
7:00pm Tonight
LIB
CPNC
 
7:00pm Tonight
SCAR
CLEM
 
7:00pm Tonight
CMICH
CONC
 
7:00pm Tonight
MIAMI
EKENT
 
7:00pm Tonight
GWEBB
HIWASSEE
 
7:00pm Tonight
ODU
MDES
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
NIAG
 
7:00pm Tonight
KSU
NCAT
 
7:00pm Tonight
FAM
UNF
 
7:00pm Tonight
NORST
NARZ
 
7:00pm Tonight
DART
NILL
 
7:00pm Tonight
MORE
NKENTUCKY
 
7:00pm Tonight
UCSB
SDCHR
 
7:00pm Tonight
STJ
GAELS
 
7:00pm Tonight
ALA
STILL
 
7:00pm Tonight
HAMP
TENST
 
7:00pm Tonight
TENN
TENT
 
7:00pm Tonight
WMARY
WSHMD
 
7:30pm Tonight
FLGC
FUR
 
7:30pm Tonight
CALST
SDKST
 
8:00pm Tonight
MTST
CHAT
 
8:00pm Tonight
NDAK
DICKINSON
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAMON
LSUALEX
 
8:00pm Tonight
PRIN
LIP
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAM
MLGN
 
8:00pm Tonight
MINN
SEAT
 
8:00pm Tonight
LOYC
SUTAH
 
8:00pm Tonight
SELA
WINT
 
8:05pm Tonight
SILL
NO
 
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
ALAAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
TTU
ARKPB
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
COLST
 
9:00pm Tonight
CREI
TXPA
 
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
EWASH
 
10:05pm Tonight
UTST
IDST
 
11:00pm Tonight
UTEP
ARZ
 
11:59pm Tonight
CHAM
HAW
 
Final
PIT 1
COL 0
Final
PHI 1
FLA 2
Final
CAR 4
TOR 1
Final
CLB 4
WAS 5
Final
MON 1
ANA 2
Final
SJS 4
EDM 3
Final
LOS 6
STL 4
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
TAM
 
7:30pm Tonight
OTT
ANA
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
NYI
 
8:00pm Tonight
WIN
BOS
 
9:00pm Tonight
CAL
DAL
 
Final
JAC 21
TEN 13