“He works his butt off all the time. I’ve never been around a guy who has practiced harder.” ZACH STRIEF Saints right tackle
Simply put, the Miami Dolphins had no answer for New Orleans Saints scatback Darren Sproles in Monday night’s game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Everything he touched put the visitors one step closer to their first defeat of the young season before a raucous sellout crowd of 73,118.
Sproles accounted for 222 all-purpose yards on 16 touches, helping the Saints put a 38-17 beatdown on the Dolphins and continue their Monday night magic under coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees.
Sproles helped stake the Saints to a 21-10 halftime lead, scoring on a 5-yard run with 11:52 remaining in the first quarter and on a 13-yard pass from Brees 55 seconds before the break.
“Drew checked into that (pass) play,’’ Sproles said. “He saw it.”
Added Payton: “(Sproles) was third in the read, and he really did a good job of settling in that flat area, and Drew gave him a really good ball and the timing was good. He’s a real smart player, and when he ends up open in zones or doing the right thing in man, it’s not really a surprise.”
Sproles said he played a bigger role plan than originally planned once the Dolphins established early that they were going to pay extra attention to tight end Jimmy Graham. When that happened, Sproles found himself working against single coverage.
“That’s what you want. You want space. You want one-on-one coverage,” Sproles said. “When you see that, you get really excited because you get man coverage and we knew we could get big plays out of it.”
In the second half, Sproles said the Dolphins started paying more attention to him. That freed up Graham to do his thing in single coverage. In the end, it became a pick-your-poison game for the Dolphins.
Graham caught four passes for 100 yards, including touchdowns of 27 and 43 yards from Brees. Overall, Brees completed 30 of 39 passes for 413 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a gaudy 144.5 passer rating.
“It just kind of developed that way in the first half,” Sproles said. “In the second half, they started doubling me and leaving Jimmy alone, and we took that.”
Sproles averaged 13.9 yards per touch, rushing four times for 28 yards, cathcing seven passes for 114 yards and returning three punts for 44 yards and two kickoffs for 36 yards.
“He gives 100-percent effort all the time,’’ Saints right tackle Zach Strief said. “He works his butt off all the time. I’ve never been around a guy who has practiced harder. Whatever the day, whatever the situation is, he prepares himself the right way.
“If they want to play Jimmy Graham underneath, over the top, bump him on the line, someone else is going to be free. That was Sproles in the first half, and we took advantage of that. That’s a testament not only to Sproles but to Drew and the coaching staff.”