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John DeShazier: Key ingredients to a Saints victory presented by Domino's

Protecting the ball would go a long way toward victory

  1. Is a coincidence that the New Orleans Saints won the only game in which they didn't turn over the football? Maybe, but we know this – holding on to it increases the chances of winning tremendously. As it stands, the Saints, with 10 turnovers and five takeaways, essentially are on pace to equal last year's marks of 30 and 17, respectively. They're working to pump the brakes on that phase of their game, so ball security on offense (four interceptions, six lost fumbles) and pressure on defense (seven sacks so far) will go a long way toward reversing what has become a disturbing trend.
  1. Another non-sexy topic: Penalties. The Saints average eight per game, tied for ninth-most in the league, after committing just five per game last year. Defensive penalties extend opposing drives, and offensive penalties go a long way toward snuffing out Saints drives. When Saints coaches and players talk about doing things to beat yourself – the things that New Orleans usually hasn't done under Coach Sean Payton– count turnovers and penalties as the top two items on that list.
  1. Another trend that is disturbing: Drew Breeshas been sacked 14 times. No quarterback can play at an elite level, or win many games – or hold up over the course of a season – at that rate. Atlanta only has six sacks this season, so maybe this is a game that Brees stays upright often enough to make some good things happen. And by good things, that's a specific referral to points. The Saints are scoring just 20.6 points per game and only once have topped 20; they're overdue for a breakout.
  1. With Marques Colstonsidelined by a shoulder injury, Brandon Colemanmay have a better chance to produce. The first-year receiver has been a bit slow out of the gate (nine catches for 113 yards and a touchdown), and Brandin Cooks(25 catches for 322 yards and a touchdown) and Willie Snead(who has been the most pleasant offensive surprise, with 22 catches for a team-leading 381 yards and a touchdown) need a bit of assistance. The Saints have gotten great production in the passing game from running backs Mark Ingramand Khiry Robinson(a combined 36 catches), but Coleman is a big target who really could be useful.
  1. Defensively, the Saints were lights out against Philadelphia for almost an entire half, including two fourth-down stops and end zone interceptions by cornerbacks Brandon Brownerand Delvin Breauxin four of the first five drives. It wasn't good enough against Philadelphia, and one good half of play won't be good enough against Atlanta. Even with All-World receiver Julio Jonesiffy because of a tender hamstring, the Falcons possess a formidable offense and a running back (Devonta Freeman) who's ripping apart opponents on the ground (93 carries for 405 yards and eight touchdowns) and through the air (24 catches for 240 yards). Quarterback Matt Ryanis one of the best in the league and he was top-notch last season against New Orleans – a combined 61 for 83 (73.5 percent) for 770 yards and four touchdowns, without an interception, in the two games. New Orleans is last in the league at 409 yards allowed per game, and next-to-last at 28.6 points allowed. It's going to be a long night defensively if the Falcons finish near those numbers.
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