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

Getting pressure on Titans QB is important

  1. Whatever problems that have beset the Titans en route to their 1-6 start, don't count pass defense among them. Tennessee allows 197.9 passing yards per game, third-fewest in the NFL, and has given up just 12 touchdown passes, nearly offset by the eight interceptions it has collected. Drew Breesis as hot as any quarterback in the league, coming off his NFL record-tying, seven-touchdown performance against the Giants. And though the Titans rush well (18 sacks), the Saints are going to be who they are offensively – namely, the No. 3 passing offense in the league, at 323.1 yards per game. If Brees is his usual, efficient self at home – he's 130 for 164 (79 percent) for 1,431 yards and 11 touchdowns, with three interceptions in his four home games – then the Saints could have another big offensive day.
  1. Whether rookie Marcus Mariotaor former LSU standout Zach Mettenbergerstarts at quarterback – and it appears that Mariota, the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, is ready to play after missing two games with a sprained MCL – Tennessee has some protection problems to address. The Titans have surrendered 28 sacks this season, and the Saints defense (19 sacks this season, 12 in the last three games) has to like what it sees on film. Tennessee, perhaps, will try some different things offensively under interim coach Mike Mularkey; perhaps the Titans will go with quick throws after seeing the Giants' success, or Mariota could be put on the move more, or extra protection will be the order of the day. The rookie has been sacked 19 times in five games (the other nine belong to Mettenberger), and never less than twice. Saints defensive end Cam Jordan(six sacks) and his teammates should be able to pressure him and get some hits.
  1. Two games ago, Saints Coach Sean Paytonsaid his team had to be better running the ball, and stopping the run. So far, so good since the edict. The Saints have held both the Colts and Giants to fewer than 100 rushing yards (though, in fairness to the Giants, they all but abandoned the run while throwing for 350 yards and six touchdowns), and have rushed for 286 themselves, including Mark Ingram's223 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Tennessee allows 119 rushing yards per game (No. 21 in the league), so Ingram, C.J. Spillerand possibly Tim Hightowerwill get their shots.
  1. New Orleans' linebacker corps is about as depleted as can be. David Hawthorne and Dannell Ellerbecouldn't play against the Giants, replacement starter Ramon Humberand rookie starter Hau'oli Kikahaexited the game with injuries and Michael Mauti, who has made his mark on special teams (blocked punt for a touchdown against Atlanta)*was pressed into service. Hawthorne is poised to return against Tennessee, but Mauti and recent signeesJo-Lonn Dunbar andMike Mohamed *possibly will have to play in the base and sub-packages against the Titans at some point. Their knowledge of the defense could provide critical in some situations, especially against the mobile Mariota.
  1. The Saints want to start quick (who doesn't?), and that may be more crucial against the Titans because they've shown the ability to come back strong in the third quarter. Tennessee has outscored opponents 48-28 in the third quarter this season. That's the good news for the Titans. The bad news – and the good for the Saints – is that opponents have outscored the Titans 59-16 in the fourth, which may explain how the Titans have losses by two (Indianapolis), one (Buffalo) and three (Atlanta) points this season.
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