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John DeShazier: Saints receivers ready for Seahawks challenge

Posted Nov 28, 2013

Seattle's defense one of the best in the league

The least productive passing game for Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints’ passing offense this season was 236 yards and two touchdowns, against New England.

That would qualify as pretty successful Monday night in Seattle, because Seattle’s second-ranked pass defense surrenders just 180.4 yards per game. Additionally, Seattle only has allowed 12 touchdowns and has collected a league-high 16 interceptions, while Brees has just eight picks to go along with his 28 touchdowns.

So Saints receivers understand that a formidable task lies ahead, despite the Seahawks (10-1) having lost a pair of defensive backs this week.

Cornerback Walter Thurmond (one interception, returned 29 yards for a touchdown) has been suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and cornerback Brandon Browner is facing a yearlong suspension for violating the same policy.

Browner, who missed the final four games last season for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, is injured (groin) and wasn’t scheduled to return until mid-December.

Minus Thurmond and Browner, the Seahawks don’t figure to alter their aggressive personality against the Saints (9-2) in the nationally televised game.

“It’s a tough matchup, I would say, for both sides,” Saints receiver Lance Moore said. “They have a group that’s extremely athletic, very big and physical, and they take the ball away better than anyone, I think, in the league.

“We’ve got to be extremely disciplined in what we’re doing, and make sure that we make plays and take advantage of the opportunities when they come. Because that defense is stingy, (opportunities) don’t come that often.”

They’ve been particularly difficult to come by against cornerback Richard Sherman (four interceptions), who arguably has emerged as the league’s premier cover corner.

“Our corner play has been a central part of our defense and how we do stuff, and what we depend on the other guys to do as well,” Seattle Coach Pete Carroll said. “Richard has been a great cog in all of that. New Orleans Saints

“Whoever’s playing the corner for us, they’re in the system and they’re called on to be on the island, be out there by themselves, and have to hold up. Richard’s been great and our guys that have played there on the other side have come through.

“We’ve had three or four guys play there at one time or another, so it’s all part of the makeup of our defense and Richard has been a great star in all of that.”

That said, the Seahawks haven’t faced a passing offense as formidable or as diverse as the Saints’ (317.3 yards per game, second in the league). From Moore, to tight end Jimmy Graham, to receiver Marques Colston, to running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, anyone could lead the team in receptions or receiving yards on a given night.

Five Saints have at least 22 receptions, seven have at least 200 receiving yards, 10 have caught touchdown passes and six average at least 12.4 yards per catch.

That will pressure the players stepping in for Thurmond and Browner.

“They’re very, very good at playing bump-and-run outside,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said Thursday. “I would say it’s complimentary to what they’re also very good at, and that is rushing the passer.

“When you play the amount of man coverage that they do – and then there are times when it’s more of a three-deep zone – the complimentary element is that … they’re able to challenge offenses with regard to getting rid of the football, (and it) matches their ability to stay on a receiver in very tight coverage.”

Said Carroll: “The challenge is the next the guy up. Byron Maxwell has played for us. He played during the four-game stretch last year when we didn’t have those guys and we held together pretty well.

“He has been in and around a lot of play already this year. He’s a very well-equipped corner. He’s really fast, he’s really long, he’s aggressive, he’s a really good technique guy. We can totally count on him.

“And Jeremy Lane played last year, too, when those guys weren’t around. Both those guys come in and I feel confident that they can play good football and they both play in the style that all of our guys play in.”

That’s fine by the Saints.

“There’s nowhere that you can hide on a football field,” Moore said. “There are 11 guys and there’s a whole lot of room for you to be out there. We look forward to the challenge.

“It’s a team that we look at as a definite playoff team and someone that we may have to face again in the playoffs. So we’ve got to go and make plays and take advantage of the opportunities that we get.”

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