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John DeShazier: Top Saints performers vs. Seattle Seahawks

Tim Hightower turned in strong performance

Check out the Week 8 action as the Saints host the Seahawks at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

OFFENSE: Tim Hightower. No explanation necessary, but I'll toss in a few words. Hightower was the Saints' blunt force in the running game Sunday against Seattle, called upon to be the primary back after Mark Ingramlost a fumble for the second consecutive week (this one was returned 34 yards for a touchdown), and totaling 26 carries for 102 yards while battling one of the league's most physical defenses. He also was key in a couple of blitz pickup situations, and played decoy on a flea flicker (he ran to the line of scrimmage, pitched the ball back to Drew Breesand watched the quarterback complete a 38-yard pass to Brandon Coleman, the Saints' longest gain). The second-longest play for New Orleans? Hightower's 28-yard run in the fourth quarter, which helped set up Brees' 2-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks. Saints fans have learned what Hightower is capable of when called upon: 28 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay, 13 carries for 54 yards against Detroit, 27 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns against Jacksonville and 16 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown against Atlanta – all in the final four games last season. Sunday was a reminder, when the Saints needed it.

DEFENSE: It seems that linebacker Nate Stuparkeeps doing impactful things on the field, ensuring that he's going to get snaps no matter who's healthy and productive at the position. He won't be kept on the sideline. His interception Sunday, the first in his 50 NFL games and the third of the season for New Orleans, came at a perfect time for the Saints – trailing 14-6, with 5:08 left in the first half and the Seahawks aiming to add to their lead. Instead, on first-and-15 from Seattle's 28 yard line, Stupar read the eyes of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, drifted to his right and snatched a pass in the middle of the field that was intended for Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse. The pick gave New Orleans a short field and the offense took advantage of it; a nine-play, 37-yard touchdown drive that lasted 4:13 and pulled the Saints to within 14-13. Stupar finished with four tackles but his interception, which helped the Saints even the turnover battle at 1-1, helped flip the momentum for the home team.

SPECIAL TEAMS: More and more, rookie kicker Wil Lutzis looking like a good gamble. He made all four field goal attempts Sunday – from 22, 53, 21 and 41 yards, respectively – in a game where points were at a premium. When the Saints were unable to score touchdowns, Lutz came through with field goals to cap drives with positive results. And let's not discount what his ability to handle kickoff duties has meant for punter Thomas Morstead. Because Lutz handles that duty, Morstead said he feels as good as he has felt at this point in any season, and the results are showing (two punts for a 46-yard gross average and 39-yard net Sunday; he was at 50.9 yards gross and 44.8 yards net entering Sunday). Lutz now is 11 for 15 this season, including 3 for 6 on attempts of 50-plus yards.


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