Flowery Branch, Ga.-- In just 3.4 seconds, Thomas DeCoud created a memory that he'll cherish for a lifetime.
Late in the first quarter of a game against the Saints last season, a 35-27 win that improved the eventual Super Bowl Champions record to 7-0, the normally decisive, cerebral, and nearly flawless New Orleans quarterback, Drew Brees, looked anything but.
Tied at seven on their own 14-yard line, the Saints' offensive line expected to do what they do best--give Brees time and keep him clean. Theirs was a line that would allow the fourth-fewest sacks in the NFL in 2009.
Brees' pocket collapsed quickly as defensive end Chauncey Davis came at him from his right and Kroy Biermann swam through the line on the inside left. A two-yard-wide gap showed itself between all the chaos and DeCoud knew he had a small window of grass and time to make something happen.
It's moments like those that players live for -- moments where they feel possessed by a greater football being.
"It was like something took me over," DeCoud said recently of his second career sack. "It was like instincts took over and said 'Go. Just run as fast as you can at him and put your helmet on him.' It's just one of those things like something else takes over your body and you're just reacting on instinct rather than thinking about what you're doing."
At the last moment, Brees, resigned to accepting the sack of the 2008 third-round pick, attempted to tuck the ball away in safety (it was a reaction that DeCoud said he did not notice until the film sessions). DeCoud's grasping tackle of the quarterback dislodged the ball as Brees was flattened to the ground. Biermann, who arrived a split second later, picked up the loose ball and stepped into the end zone, deflating a notoriously raucous home crowd before a live national television audience.
And how'd that feel?
"It was almost like an out of body experience, so to speak," he explained. "It felt like something else took my body over and I had tunnel vision straight to Brees. I made the hit. Once the play was over and we'd scored, I didn't have control of my body. I was in a state of euphoria. That was the most hyped I've ever been in my life."
But the 25-year-old former University of California Bear wasn't just playing out of control on his way to bringing down Brees. Prior preparation played a role as well.
In the week leading up to the Week 8 matchup DeCoud spent time studying the quarterback's cadence, trying to determine how the clock counts in Brees' head.
It was yet another example of mental readying meeting physical application.
Other than taking the touchdown lead and knowing he conquered one of the league's best, DeCoud swelled with knowing he also single-handedly took down one of the most notoriously ruckus crowds in the league.
For him, the puncturing feeling of an away crowd is more priceless than the roar of a friendly stadium.
"I think it's even more rewarding when you're away," DeCoud said. "You can feel the energy leave the home crowd when you're playing away. You can feel that 'I've deflated this entire city' pretty much through that one play. I think it's more of a gratifying feeling having a big play like that when you're the away team."