Looks Can Be Deceiving

The New Orleans Saints aren't exactly tearing up the NFL this year. With a 4-8 record and a defense that's ranked dead last in the entire league against the rush and the pass, and in points allowed, the Saints aren't a team that you would expect to instill a lot of fear in an opposing coach.

Bill Parcells would beg to differ. At his press conferences this week, he has sounded as legitimately concerned about the Saints as he has about any team the Cowboys have faced this season.

"They have tremendous firepower," Parcells said Thursday, "a lot more than other teams we've played."

OK, Parcells is right on that one. The Saints do have the NFL's leading receiver in Joe Horn, who has 76 receptions through 12 games for 1,100 yards and (14.5 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns. They also have Deuce McAllister, considered one of the NFL's top running backs. And enigmatic QB Aaron Brooks, even while honing his skills in his early years as a quarterback, always has impressed coaches with his considerable physical tools.

"They have a quarterback (Brooks) with a very strong, he can really get it downfield," Parcells said. "They have the leading receiver (Horn) in the league."

But Parcells also expressed concern about the Saints' defense, the unit that has been scorched for 344 points (28.7 points per game).

"Defensively, I really like their front," said Parcells, who pointed out that the Saints have an advantage over many other teams in that they have three quality DEs -- Charles Grant, Darren Howard and Will Smith -- with the ability to get to the passer."

QB Vinny Testaverde echoed his coach's respect for the Saints' embattled defense.

"I've watched the film of when the Cowboys played them last year, and they blitzed a lot," Testaverde said. "But then, I've watched the last four games, and they didn't blitz that much. So we have to prepare for everything possible.

"They're a team, defensively, that when they blitz you, they can really get after you. They have a really talented front four, and they have some veteran DBs who are very good."

Like Parcells, Testaverde said it is the front four that spearheads the New Orleans defense.

"They have some really talented players," Testaverde said. "I don't see them doing anything more (schematically) than other teams do. They just have guys who have a knack for rushing the quarterback. They just have more of them than some other teams."

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