Losing Michael Thomas to injury wasn’t good, but Saints might be a better team when he comes back because of it

Sean Payton has many sayings.

Some colorful. Some sharp and to the point. Some original, some inherited—almost all of them wise.

But there is one that stands out above most others, one that comes into play almost every season, if not every game. “Confidence is only born of demonstrated ability. It is not born of anything else.” In other words, if success is the driver, the car won’t even start until confidence is riding somewhere in the vehicle.

You can see the very moment confidence was conceived and then born between Tre’Quan Smith and Drew Brees this season. During the second quarter of a Week 2 game against the Las Vegas Raiders, the Saints used a route concept where Smith ran a deep crossing route with another player on a shallow one underneath. Brees hit the receiver down the field for a gain of 25 yards.

New Orleans ran a play that included those same two routes against Detroit on a third-down pass during the fourth quarter. Brees was quickly under pressure and threw the pass up to Smith against somewhat tight coverage. The ball got where it needed to be, and the Saints gained 19 yards.

After the game, when Brees got asked what he saw during the play, the quarterback joked that he didn’t see much because he was on his back. What everyone else saw was a high level of confidence between quarterback and receiver – perhaps more than there ever has been between the two players.

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