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New Orleans Saints key ingredients to victory against Indianapolis Colts | 2023 NFL Week 8

Saints must improve red zone offense, start fast defensively

Check out the game action shots from the New Orleans Saints game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 7 of the 2023 NFL season.
Check out the game action shots from the New Orleans Saints game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 7 of the 2023 NFL season.

Four losses in five games have the New Orleans Saints at 3-4 entering Sunday's game against the Colts (3-4) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Despite that, the reality is that New Orleans is just one game behind Atlanta in the NFC South Division standings. Saints players and coaches say they know what the issues are; here's another chance to correct them.

1. RED ALERT: There's two remedies to New Orleans' red zone issues on offense. The first is to score touchdowns from outside the red zone, thereby eliminating the need for scores from the shorter distance. The second is to find the cohesion and execution from close that too often has been missing this season. New Orleans is 9 of 24 in the red zone; quarterback Derek Carr, receivers Michael Thomasand Chris Olave, running back Alvin Kamara, et al, have to find what best will work and be on the same page when they do. If the decision is to not use tight end Jimmy Graham in those situations, there needs to be some proof as to why that isn't a viable option. Kamara and Taysom Hill have noses for the goal line, which means the Saints may lean a bit more on the run inside the 10. The Colts allow 119 rushing yards per game, including 150 in their last one, so ground and pound may be the best option. Kamara doesn't mind the work at all.

2. PLAY FROM AHEAD: Carr's top two passing yards games this season (353 and 301) have been in the last two, both losses. New Orleans mainly has played behind and the 301-yard game, against Jacksonville, owed a lot to the Saints playing hurry-up for a good portion of the second half. Taking an early lead, as was the case against New England in a 34-0 victory, eliminates the need to get so pass-heavy and allows the Saints to remain balanced.

3. LOCK DOWN EARLY: Defensively, New Orleans has been out of sync in the first half of the last two, allowing 17 points to each opponent, before locking down in the second halves to allow a combined 10 points. The feeling-out process has taken a toll and has been costly. In two previous games against Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew, when Minshew was with the Jaguars and Eagles, respectively, the Saints held him to a combined 32-for-61 for 437 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions, and sacked him eight times. Getting to him early, and keeping him in the pocket, may yield big dividends if defensive end Carl Granderson(4.5 sacks) and the rest of the Saints can stay disciplined in the rush.

4. POPULATE: Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is rounding into form. After rushing for 37 yards on 14 carries in his first two games, he ran for 75 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, and caught three passes for 45 yards, against Cleveland. He's a game-breaker, which means linebackers Pete Werner and Demario Davis are going to have heavy work ahead of them. Getting Taylor before he gets to the second level of the defense is paramount, and forcing him to run east and west instead of north and south would help, too. New Orleans has to minimize his output on the ground, and make sure he doesn't do too much damage in the passing game. And Zack Moss, who leads the Colts with 523 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 114 carries, obviously can't be overlooked.

5. COOLER HEADS: Football is an emotional game. That's understood. But the Saints have to maintain their composure with each other. Losing cool hasn't been productive, and it gives off a bad look. It's something that had to be addressed, has been addressed and, hopefully, won't again need to be addressed this season.

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