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John DeShazier: Pierre Thomas continues to shine in the shadows for Saints

Running back keeps making big play after big play

Pierre Thomas said he doesn't single out any game above another, that the goal is peak performance every week.

So if it seems that the running back appears to show up biggest in New Orleans' biggest games, when the spotlight is shining a little brighter for one reason or another, it's just coincidence – a pleasant one, for the Saints.

Take, for example, the recent three-victories-in-12-days sprint, when the Saints (9-2) downed Dallas, San Francisco and Atlanta in a stamina-testing run.

No skill position player not named Drew Brees played any better for the Saints during the stretch than did Thomas, who rolled up 325 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns as he continued to shine in the shadows.

He ran for 209 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries (5.5 yards per carry) as the Saints continued to achieve a better pass-run balance, and caught 17 passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.

In the previous seven games, he ran 79 times for 277 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and caught 39 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns.

"I try to take every game the same," he said. "I try to approach every game the same. I try to go in there and give it my all. I don't know if you want to say it's big games and I always step up to the challenge, but when they're there, you need somebody to step up. And I try to step up every time I'm in the game, no matter what game it is.

"Big game or not big game, I'm going to go out there and I'm going to do my job, and I'm going to do the best job that I can. I always think positive so I'm always going to have that positive mind-set that says, 'I'm going to go out here and I'm going to get this amount of yards, or this amount of touchdowns.'

"I'm trying to stay positive and seeing myself do that. If it doesn't (come) through, I'll feel comfortable with myself, saying, 'I went out there and fought, I think I did a good job for my team.' "

The fact is, his effort never has been questioned, from the time he joined the Saints as a rookie free agent from Illinois in 2007 until now. He's on pace to lead the Saints in rushing for the third time in seven seasons and now is fourth in franchise history in rushing yards (3,460).

"Each game is different," Coach Sean Payton said. "I probably was planning on playing Khiry (Robinson) more (Thursday night against Atlanta), but our total snap count wasn't as high as it had been in prior weeks. We just didn't have the same amount of possessions.

"(But) Pierre was outstanding in some big conversions, and really stepped up to the plate well. He's paying well for us."

He had equal gains of 18 yards on a run and a reception, played big in blitz pickup and continued to show his value to and knowledge of the Saints' offense.

He has helped spearhead a resurgent running game that has gained 437 yards on 86 carries the last three games.

"It feels great to have the running game doing very good," Thomas said. "We feel like we're in a great spot right now, we feel like our offense can really do it all, go out there and run the ball and execute and pick up first downs on the ground and also in the air. We feel like we're in a great position right now."

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