METAIRIE, La. — Seattle’s Walter Thurmond has 31 tackles, six passes defensed and one interception this season.
Fellow defensive back Brandon Browner has 20 tackles, 10 passes defensed and an interception, as well.
And neither are expected to play Monday night when the Saints (9-2), boasting the league’s second-best passing offense, play at Seattle (10-1), owners of the league’s second-best pass defense.
But their backups – Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane – already have the attention of New Orleans.
“I think the thing, and I told our players this, they are going to come in and play the same type of technique,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said. “You don’t see something change differently in regards to how they play a certain coverage or how they play a technique. “
Thurmond is in the midst of a four-game suspension for non-PED substance abuse having dropped his appeal.
Browner’s appeal, meanwhile, has been heard by the NFL (he’s not suspended until the NFL announces its decision). But he missed the Seahawks’ Nov. 17 game against Minnesota with a groin injury and hadn’t practiced as of Thursday afternoon.
If the Saints are expecting little change with Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane in the lineup, as well as DeShawn Snead, whom they signed from their practice squad, they’ll face one of the NFL’s best with the ball in the air. No team has more interceptions (16) than the Seahawks
Seattle’s pass defense ranks second in the NFL in total passing yards allowed per game (180.4), but first when factoring yards per pass attempt (5.4). And in 11 games, the Seahawks have allowed more than 200 yards three times.
They’re led by shutdown corner Richard Sherman, whose four interceptions and 11 pass defenses lead the team. Quarterbacks are completing only 58.1 percent of their passes when throwing towards him and have a 67.0 quarterback rating, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Whoever’s playing the corner for us, they’re in the system and they’re called on to be on the island, be out there by themselves, and have to hold up,” Seattle Coach Pete Carroll said. “Richard’s been great and our guys that have played there on the other side have come through with a number of guys.”
But they’ll be tested unlike they have at any point this season.
They’ve faced a top 12 quarterback only twice this season – Tampa Bay’s Mike Glennon and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. Glennon threw only two incomplete passes and tossed two touchdowns in a 27-24 overtime loss to Seattle while Ryan went 23-for-36 for 172 yards and a touchdowns.
New Orleans’ Drew Brees, meanwhile, is the fourth-rated quarterback in the NFL. His 3,647 yards are second-most this season, as are his 28 touchdowns. He has thrown only eight interceptions.
In his two games against defenses with stout pass defenses – New England (No. 9) and San Francisco (No. 4) – he has been mixed.
Against the Patriots he threw two touchdowns, but also tossed an interception and completed only 47.2 percent of his passes. In the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the 49ers, he completed 69.8 percent of his passes and threw a touchdown, but he also was intercepted once.
And he’s aware of Seattle’s reputation.
“Their secondary is full of a bunch of ballhawks,” Brees said. “They are guys that are around the ball all the time. Balls are getting tipped up, they have great ball skills, great awareness. That’s what their defense thrives on.”