Brian Allee-Walsh

Can the Saints survive their Super Bowl hunt without a true No. 2 option at receiver?

Saints QB Drew Brees breaks NFL record for yards passed

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees passed Peyton Manning to became the NFL's career passing yardage leader after the Saints' win against the Washington Redskins on Monday night.
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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees passed Peyton Manning to became the NFL's career passing yardage leader after the Saints' win against the Washington Redskins on Monday night.

It’s hard to argue with success.

After all, the NFC South-champion New Orleans Saints have one of the league’s most prolific offensive units, averaging nearly 35 points and 400 yards per game and boast an MVP candidate at quarterback with game-changers at wide receiver and running back.

But the the NFC’s current No. 1 team has an elephant in the room.

How can the Saints’ offense operate at peak efficiency in the playoffs with Michael Thomas as the team’s only consistent threat at wide receiver? Now, Thomas is good, with 102 catches (118 targets, only three drops) for 1,218 yards and eight touchdowns, delivering time and again for Drew Brees through the first 13 games.

And yes, RB Alvin Kamara (70-591-4) and TE Ben Watson (31-337-2) have been excellent complements in the passing game That said, the Saints’ No. 2 pass-catching WR after Thomas is rookie Tre’Quan Smith (22-371-4) and he’s been MIA the past two games.

Again, it’s hard to argue with success. The Saints are 11-2, have run away with their second consecutive division title and sit in the catbird’s seat when it comes to homefield advantage in the NFC going into Monday night’s game at Carolina (7:15 p.m., ESPN).

Coach Sean Payton is a proven playcaller, Brees brings the plays to life and the Saints have few equals when it comes to moving the chains and lighting up the scoreboard.

But Payton finds himself squeezing blood from a turnip in the absence of a bonafide No. 2 wideout, and that could eventually haunt the Saints as the second season plays out. Need I remind anyone in Who Dat Nation what happened against the defensive-minded Dallas Cowboys at Jerry’s World in Week 13.

Many have tried to lend Thomas help as the No. 2 WR, most notably Cam Meredith (IR), Ted Ginn Jr. (IR), newbie Brandon Marshall (a healthy scratch), Dez Bryant (IR) and the rookie Smith. But, with litle success.

Meantime, Brees is keeping the dream alive throwing to a mixed bag of wide receivers, most notably Austin Carr, Tommylee Lewis and Keith Kirkland. Least I forget RB Mark Ingram, FB Zach Line, TEs Josh Hill and Dan Arnold and the man for all positions — the Swiss army knife,Taysom Hill.

Hey, it’s worked for 13 games.

My question is can Thomas and Payton’s receiver-by-committee approach hold up through Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta?

It’s one thing to fool opposing defenses during the regular season. It’s quite another when the season turns to single elimination and the opposition works 24/7 to expose every single shortcoming.

Just saying.

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