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John DeShazier's Key Ingredients to a Saints victory presented by Papa John's

Third down success will be important

The New Orleans Saints want to extend a couple of streaks Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. First, they'll be attempting to win their third straight game and second, they'll be looking to win their second straight road game. It won't be easy. Here are a few ways they can help their cause:

  1. Remember when the Saints were struggling on third down, failing to convert on 17 of 24 attempts in the first two games? It took them all of three games – and conversions on 26 of their next 47 attempts – to climb back to a more familiar position, No. 3 in the league at 46.5 percent. That kind of success will be critical against the Chiefs, to keep alive drives for the offense and to keep Kansas City's defense on the field. Chiefs opponents convert 43.1 percent on third down, so the numbers skew in New Orleans' favor. If it comes down to ball control, the Saints may be able to control the clock. The Chiefs allow 131 rushing yards per game, on 4.4 yards per attempt. This could be a Mark Ingramkind of game.
  1. You know the Saints are going to be who they are on offense, which means they probably intend to throw the ball around a bit on Sunday. Any team with Drew Breesat quarterback, and Drew Brees, Michael Thomasand Drew Breesat receiver, and Coby Fleenerat tight end – and coming off a 465-yard, four-touchdown passing day – would be wise to lean in that direction. But, as Coach Sean Paytonsaid earlier this week, the ball has to come out on time and it has to be accurate. The Chiefs are tied for the league lead with nine interceptions, and second-year cornerback Marcus Petersis as good as they come in terms of getting  his hands on the ball (13 interceptions and 35 pass breakups in 21 regular-season games). Whatever weaknesses Kansas City has in the secondary, it's up to Brees and Co. to exploit them. New Orleans won't likely be as proficient as it has been at home (Brees averages 421 passing yards per game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome), but it'll likely need to be more productive than the 235 passing yards it has averaged in two road games.
  1. The Chiefs have allowed 14 sacks in five games, a bit of a surprise considering quarterback Alex Smithis fairly mobile. But the Saints pressured another very mobile quarterback last week, Carolina's Cam Newton, and produced two sacks and 13 hurries. That kind of pressure usually leads to good things; it'll be important for defensive tackle Nick Fairley(a team-leading 3.5 sacks) and the defensive line maintains a push of the middle and its rush lanes.
  1. The Saints secondary needs to take another step forward, and it'll have to do so without Sterling Moore(abdomen). Moore, who was starting as an injury replacement, injured himself against the Panthers. B.W. Webbplayed well, Ken Crawleycontinues his baptism by fire,and Brian Dixonand/or De'Vante Harrismay have to play expanded roles. The versatility of safety Kenny Vaccarois an asset but the Chiefs, undoubtedly, will take their shots against this defensive backfield.
  1. Field position will be critical, which is where kicker Wil Lutzand punter Thomas Morsteadcome in, as well as the cover teams (Jake Lampmanand Daniel Lascohad notable games on special teams against the Panthers). Kansas City's Tyreek Hill(16.4-yard average on 12 punt returns, and 23.5 on eight kickoffs) needs to have his opportunities limited, and the best way to do that is with Lutz's deep kickoffs and Morstead's directional punting and hang time. Each is capable of helping out the unit by doing just that.
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