NFL Report: Saints' Breaux continues remarkable comeback

87186922
Delvin Breaux of the New Orleans Saints reacts to a defensive stop.

When Delvin Breaux runs out of Lincoln Financial Field's visitors' locker room on Sunday afternoon to play against the Eagles, it will mark the continuation of an incredible comeback. The New Orleans Saints cornerback was told nine years ago this month that he should have died on the field when he broke his neck as a high school senior.

The injury prevented him from being cleared to play at Louisiana State. His dream looked dim. But Breaux, who grew up in New Orleans, refused to give up. The rookie's journey to the NFL took him to a semipro league before stints in the Arena Football League and Canada. His hometown Saints signed him in January, and he has started each game this season.

"Football made me the person that I am today," Breaux told Bleacher Report in a documentary the website produced this summer. "I always knew in my mind, that if I'm alive, if I'm able to run and walk and think on my own, then I knew I had the capabilities of playing."

Breaux committed to LSU in June 2006, a few months before the start of his senior year at McDonogh 35 High in New Orleans. He was a shutdown cornerback. Teams rarely threw in his direction. LSU coaches came to see him in play on Oct. 27, 2006. Breaux said he had to put on a show.

Breaux rushed down on a kickoff, ran around a line of blockers, and tackled the returner. His head slammed into the opponent's knee. Breaux's teammates huddled around him and told him to get up. He could not move. Breaux said he then saw a bright light, something he had never seen before. His coaches came on the field, and Breaux got up. He walked off under his own power and took his helmet off, believing he would reenter the game. He then felt a throbbing pain in his neck. Breaux told his father he needed to get in an ambulance.

"As soon as I saw his X-rays and the CAT scans of the neck, I was really surprised that he was neurologically fine," neurosurgeon Miguel Melgar said in the documentary. "It was like a miracle. My expectations weren't even thinking about football. Any contact sport in the future was out of the question."

Poll

Which Eagles running back should get the most carries?

LSU honored Breaux's scholarship, but he was unable to play for the Tigers. He spent time as a player-coach Head coach Les Miles said last month that Breaux was a "wonderful man."

"I'm so glad for him," Miles said at a news conference. "I can't tell you. I just want him to be everything that he wants to be."

Breaux - with the urging of his fiance, Kasey - decided to give football another try in 2012. He latched on with the Louisiana Bayou Vipers, a semipro team that plays home games at a high school field. Breaux then signed with the New Orleans VooDoo of the Arena Football League. He played three games before being noticed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.

Breaux became a star in Canada. It was his first time playing football for a team outside his home state. Breaux played two seasons and was one of the league's elite defensive backs. His performance landed him a tryout last winter with the Saints. They did not let him leave.

"It's unreal. It's like a dream," Breaux's father, Lionel, said in the documentary. "Sometimes I have to pinch myself to see if it's real."

Nothing to see here

The television cameras kept panning to the sideline on Thursday night to get the reaction of Houston quarterback Ryan Mallett, who was removed from his team's game against Indianapolis in the first half. They zoomed in on Mallett after Brian Hoyer tossed an interception to seal the team's 27-20 loss to the Colts.

Why keep showing Mallett? He was pulled after a terrible start. There's no quarterback controversy in Houston; both quarterbacks are average at best. The constant glimpses of Mallett seemed forced.

London calling

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I love the games in London. The Wembley Stadium crowd seemed a lot more into the game on Sunday than when the NFL first played a regular-season game there in 2007. And this game was the Jets and the Dolphins. If you can get excited for that, you can get excited for anything.

American fans should steal the British fans' idea of waving flags on sticks. They're sure better than a lame rally towel. Plus, the London games mean that Sunday football starts at 9:30 a.m. It almost feels like living on the West Coast.

Almost.

Thumbs up

Jaelen Strong, a West Catholic graduate, saw his first NFL action on Thursday night, and he did not disappoint. Strong caught two passes, both for touchdowns. The Houston Texans drafted Strong in the third round, but he had been projected to go in the first. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder has NFL size and good speed. He could be joined in the pro ranks next season by close friend Will Fuller, the Roman Catholic grad who is starring now at Notre Dame.

Thumbs down

The Eagles are not the only team with a disappointing offensive line. Yet the Broncos, thanks to a lights-out defense, have found a way to stay undefeated. Peyton Manning has not been himself in the first four games as he seems to be constantly under pressure. The running game also has not had room to get going. This week could be the Broncos' offensive line's chance to break out against a poor Oakland defense.

Weekend's best

Top Sunday early afternoon game: Seattle at Cincinnati

 

The undefeated Bengals get to host the Seahawks, who played last Monday. The difference will likely be Cincinnati's ability to continue stopping the run. The stout Bengals defense allows just 85.8 rushing yards per game. They could be tested if Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch returns from injury.

Top Sunday late afternoon game: New England at Dallas

 

The Patriots are 11-4 after a bye week under Bill Belichick. They should have little trouble improving to 12-4. The Cowboys rushing attack looked pedestrian against New Orleans. Look for Christine Michael to receive additional carries this week. Even if the running game gets going, Dallas will have to stop Tom Brady, and that's no easy task.

Sunday night game: San Francisco at N.Y. Giants

 

It's hard to believe it was just three seasons ago that the 49ers were in the Super Bowl and Colin Kaepernick was considered an emerging quarterback. Kaepernick has struggled this season. His 67.7 quarterback rating is the league's third-worst mark; the Giants have the league's worst pass defense. Something will have to give.

Monday night game: Pittsburgh at San Diego

 

Michael Vick will be under center again. He performed well last week, especially considering it came on Thursday night, just four days after Ben Roethlisberger's injury. San Diego has been tough against the pass, but Vick has strong options in Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, who is slated to return from a suspension.

mbreen@phillynews.com

@matt_breen