If their 34-0 road victory over New England wasn't a get-right game for the New Orleans Saints, it absolutely appeared to be a get-on-the-right-track game.
It was New Orleans' most complete presentation of the season. Building upon it will be the task this week as the Saints (3-2) play the Texans (2-3) on Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Here are a few ways to do it.
- RUN IT BACK: The Saints had a season high in rushing yards (136) and attempts (42) against the Patriots, led by Alvin Kamara (22 carries, 80 yards and a touchdown) and Kendre Miller (11-37-0). Partly, it was attributable to New Orleans taking an early lead and leaning on the effective running game after doing so. Grinding up an opponent in the run game is the preferred mode of transportation for any offensive line, and it was a great benefit to quarterback Derek Carr. The Texans allow 112.4 rushing yards per game, so the numbers suggest there may be some traction to be gained there despite the fact that Houston only gave up 96 rushing yards in its last game. But you only can stay committed to the run if you have a lead, or the game is close.
- GAME OF INCHES: The Saints were a few inches away last Sunday from producing several explosive plays on offense. Whether it's a Carr pass that's a tad out of reach, or a run that's a block or a back's vision away from springing, the Saints could help themselves tremendously by hitting on a few of those plays. Improved offensive line play has been crucial, so now the play-makers have to do their jobs, too. An easy score or two eases the burden of having to construct 12-play drives.
- CAN THE ROOK BE SHOOK: Maybe this will be the week that Houston quarterback C.J. Stroud can be made to look like a rookie, because it definitely hasn't yet happened. In the first five games, the No. 2 overall pick in the '23 draft has completed 114 of 186 yards for 1,461 yards and seven touchdowns, with no interceptions, and has run for 53 yards on 15 carries. He has been sacked 11 times. This will be a test for the Saints defensively, because Stroud hasn't made many mistakes and doesn't take many sacks, admirable qualities for any quarterback but especially impressive for a rookie. Carl Granderson has a team-leading 3.5 sacks but nine players have combined for the Saints' 11 sacks and each of New Orleans' seven interception has been by a different player, so the production can come from anywhere. That's good, because the Saints need to confuse Stroud as much as possible. Receiver Nico Collins (25-467-3) may see a good bit of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore across from him.
- MAKE THEM ONE-DIMENSIONAL: The Texans have needed Stroud to be productive, in part because Houston's running game has been little to no help. The Texans average 82.6 rushing yards per game, sixth fewest in the league, and average three yards per carry. It'll be a lot more likely to force Stroud into a mistake if he doesn't have much of a running game to turn to for help. If New Orleans' defense can take away the run, it'll have a chance to chase Stroud under favorable conditions.