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John DeShazier's key ingredients to a Saints victory presented by Papa John's

Saints need to make Washington one-dimensional

See the best moments from Saints running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara the Week 10 match up against the Buffalo Bills.

There's no under-the-radar creeping now for the New Orleans Saints (7-2), not for a team that's riding a seven-game winning streak and has won those games by an average score of 33-14. The numbers suggest an offensive and defensive evenness that teams strive for, and it's an evenness that the Saints will attempt to duplicate on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, against Washington (4-5). Here are a few ways how that can be accomplished, and they might appear familiar to regular readers:

  1. Defensively, it always begins and end with making an opponent one-dimensional, and the Saints have flourished by doing so during their seven-game winning streak. Four times, opponents have been held to 87 rushing yards or less and during the streak, and the Saints are allowing 107 yards per game (the last two opponents, Tampa Bay and Buffalo, were held to 78 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry). However, that's fine by Washington; it only runs for 96.7 yards per game, and 3.8 yards per attempt. It puts the onus on quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has 2,474 passing yards (fourth-most in the league) and 14 touchdowns, with just five interceptions. And Cousins has 37 completions of 20-plus yards, tied for third-most in the league. The Saints' secondary, led by cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore, Ken Crawley and P.J. Williams, plus safety Marcus Williams, is going to get a workout. New Orleans only has allowed 11 touchdown passes this season, and has countered with 10 interceptions; opponents had 27 touchdowns passes and nine interceptions last year. Cousins also has been sacked 23 times, and Saints defensive end Alex Okafor (4.5 sacks) has at least a half-sack in four of the last five games. So New Orleans should be able to pressure Cousins; perhaps, the pressure will result in a mistake or two.
  1. Raise your hand if you thought the Saints would be running the ball this well this season. Now, stop lying. The honest truth is, few people – precious, precious few – foresaw a Saints running game that would be third in the league (142.2 yards per game), featuring a pair of running backs who have combined for 1,654 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns (Mark Ingram has 672 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 144 carries, and 192 receiving yards on 31 catches; Alvin Kamara has 417 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 64 carries, plus 373 yards and two scores on 42 receptions). The Saints have been able to impose their will on the ground during their winning streak; New Orleans is averaging 162.7 yards per game on 34 carries. Washington is giving up 109.6 rushing yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry, so this could be a favorable matchup for the Saints.
  1. Twice during the Saints' winning streak, Drew Brees has thrown for less than 200 yards and another time, he had just 213 passing yards. The Saints scored 52, 47 and 34 points in those games, their three highest-scoring games of the season. The Saints still are a formidable passing team, and while Washington seeks to take away the Saints' run, this might be one of those classic "Brees days" that Saints fans have come to expect. Washington has 22 sacks and 10 interceptions and allows a respectable 235 passing yards per game, the Washington likes its secondary's chances against all comers. But something tells me that after three straight games of less than 300 passing yards, Brees is due to go off. Michael Thomas (59 catches for 662 yards and two touchdowns, including 31 catches for 341 yards in his last four) is on a roll, and Kamara has been a monster out of the backfield.
  1. The Saints are warming to the occasion on third down offensively and defensively, and the numbers have been reflective of that. They're 13-for-25 in the last two games (52 percent), and have held Tampa Bay and Buffalo to 6 of 24 (25 percent), which is a big reason they've been dominating time of possession. Keep track of those numbers Sunday.
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