Each week Saintsinsider.com’s Matthew Postins will analyze the top five issues facing the New Orleans Saints that week. In this edition, Postins analyzes who picks up the slack for Marques Colston, why activating Jo-Lonn Dunbar worked out for everyone last week and what the Saints defense must do against Washington to win. Click right here.
Each Week Saintsinsider.com will break down a key drive from the New Orleans Saints’ most recent game. The Drive breaks down every play of a drive, analyzes its importance in the game and why that drive mattered to a Saints victory or defeat. In this week’s debut, Matthew Postins breaks down a key third-quarter drive that led to a 1-0 record. Get the inside look right here.
In the two seasons that coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees have been together in New Orleans, the Saints have finished first and third, respectively, in the NFL in passing yards.
In addition to Payton's play calling and Brees' execution of the offense, another reason they've been so successful has been wide receiver Marques Colston as the former seventh-round draft pick piled up 168 catches, 2,240 yards and 19 touchdowns in his first two seasons.
But Brees and the Saints (1-0) lost that key weapon Wednesday when it was learned that Colston underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and will miss Sunday's game with the Washington Redskins and likely be out 4-to-6 weeks.
Colston will be in a cast for about a month, which means that other receivers like David Patten, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Terrance Copper and Robert Meachem will have to step up in his absence.
"We have to continue to work these other guys in," Payton said. "We're going to lose players (to injury), each team in the league is losing them. It's the hard part of the game. But we have to continue and be able to function. We'll go from there."
Colston was hurt in the third quarter of the Saints' season-opening 24-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He tried to catch a short pass from Brees, but Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber came up to make the tackle and his helmet apparently pinned Colston's thumb against his midsection.
"It happened so quickly I don't even know what really happened," Colston said Wednesday, his left arm in a sling. "I don't know if my thumb just got caught in an awkward position. It bent all the way backwards."
Colston went to the sideline to have the thumb taped up and returned to catch a 5-yard pass later in the quarter. He finished the game, but an X-ray and MRI on Tuesday revealed the ligament damage.
At that point, Payton said, the decision was made to have the surgery so Colston, who had the same injury to his right thumb in college, can return to the lineup before midseason.
"Basically, the surgery was to stabilize the thumb," Payton said. "It's going to take some time, a few weeks. Weighing the options, it was definitely the best option to get this done now and get it repaired the right way."
It's possible that Colston, a 6-foot-4, 225-pounder, could return for the Oct. 12 game with Oakland if he's out for the minimum amount of time or the Oct. 26 matchup with San Diego at the other end of the scale.
Still, it leaves Brees without his top target and most productive receiver for an extended period of time. Brees said it's tough to lose a guy as productive as Colston, but is confident the other receivers will step up.
"There's always an opportunity for a younger guy or guys that might not get as much playing time ordinarily to step up and contribute more -- like David Patten, Robert Meachem, or Lance Moore," he said. "I'm confident with all our guys. However we piece it together, whoever's on the field knows what to do, and they know they'll get their opportunities."