What The Saints Have To Do On Sunday
An Insider's perspective from New England
1) Throw the ball
If Aaron Brooks can get on track a couple of times in the game, he will be able to thwart the Patriots primary objective against New Orleans - stopping the run. The Patriots have changed their strategy of late, gearing up to stop the run by packing the box and challenging teams to throw against them. Fortunately for them, the opposing quarterbacks haven't been able to connect with their receivers as often as they have liked. When they do - as Peyton Manning did - it's an ugly day for the Patriots secondary.
Duane Starks is on I/R so there's no blame, or opportunity there. Opposing receivers have still burned other Patriots DBs for big gains or fade patterns in the end zone. Asante Samuel has particularly been picked on. Rookie Ellis Hobbs will man the other cornerback position, but the rookie fared well covering Chris Chambers in Miami. Chambers had three opportunities to tie the game on the Dolphins final drive; but twice was blanketed by Hobbs negating the opportunity for a Dolphins TD.
Brooks will have to find a way to get the Ball to his receivers to take the pressure off the running game.
2) Get Antowain Smith on track
The Patriots rush defense is improving but still ranks in the bottom tier of the league. It's only slightly better than their awful pass defense. One of the areas the Patriots have focused in is stopping opposing runners. They were able to hold Edgerrin James to 3.1 yards per carry in the game against Indianapolis. They also held Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown in check, limiting the dynamic duo to 77 yards on 25 carries, well below their season average.
3) Find a way to get to Tom Brady
If the Saints don't get to Tom Brady, then it's going to be a long day. Brady has consistently put up big numbers through the season, and is still on pace to shatter his personal best for yardage. With 2,560 yards, Brady leads the league in passing. Amazingly he's doing it without a big name receiver like a Randy Moss, Terrell Owens or other number one. Deion Branch is the Patriots biggest name in the receiving corp, but if Brady can't get the ball to him, there are plenty of other targets, including Tim Dwight, Andre Davis and the tight ends.
The Saints catch a break this week due to more Patriot injury troubles. Out are No. 2 receiver David Givens, and KR/receiver Bethel Johnson. TE Dan Graham is returning from injury and still may not be 100%, but the Patriots still have Ben Watson, Troy Brown and Christian Fauria as potential targets.
The New England offensive line is a disaster area, with three starters from the beginning of the season out. Matt Light, Tom Ashworth and Dan Koppen are all unavailable or gone for the year. Reserve center Russ Hochstein, rookies Nick Kaczur and Logan Mankins man the left side, while backup tackle Brandon Gorin takes Ashworth's spot on the right side.
The Saints front four should be able to get pressure on Brady, while controlling the run. With no Corey Dillon for the game, The Saints defense should be able to focus on getting to the QB.