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Key ingredients to a Saints victory vs. the Giants, presented by Papa John's

Run defense will be challenged, too


The New Orleans Saints are on a two-game winning streak and have their first winning record after three games (2-1) since 2013. There's room for improvement, as there is for every team, but there also is a golden opportunity to win their second straight road game and climb to 3-1. That's the goal for Sunday's game against the Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and here are a few items to keep an eye on:

  1. Either P.J. Williams, or Ken Crawley – or, preferably, both – has to play better. All the secondary glitches aren't attributable to them, but the cornerback position opposite Marshon Lattimore has been picked out and picked on by opponents this season. Now that nickel cornerback Patrick Robinson is out for the season, neither can afford to under-perform. Each previously has shown the ability to play at a higher level than what has been shown this year, and saviors don't walk in off the street at this time of year, so they're what the Saints have. A disruptive pass rush – not just sacks, but pressures and batted passes – will help. But as a whole, the secondary can and should be better and individually, Williams and Crawley are the guys wearing the bull's-eyes on their backs.
  2. Just because the Saints have been in lockdown mode against the run (three yards per carry allowed) doesn't mean the Giants are going to shy away. Not with Saquon Barkley (46 carries for 216 yards and two touchdowns) in the backfield. The rookie is explosive and he might be the Giants' best hope of keeping the Saints' offense on the sideline. New Orleans is averaging 34.7 points per game and already has two 40-plus point outbursts this season. New York will want to control the ball and the clock, lest it risk getting into a shootout with the Saints and Drew Brees.
  3. Speaking of Brees – whew! He's completing 80.6 percent of his passes, has eight touchdowns and no interceptions, and is third in the league in passing yards (1,078). The Giants like to play a little more man-to-man in the secondary than did Atlanta and if they do, that'll play into the hands of Brees and receiver Michael Thomas, who has an NFL-record 38 receptions in the first three games. He also leads the league with 398 receiving yards. The Saints love ball distribution in the passing game, but there hasn't yet been a defensive remedy for Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara (30 receptions). The Saints' triplets against the Giants D is one to keep an eye on.
  4. The Saints dominated time of possession (37:45 to 29:20) in the overtime victory over Atlanta, in part because they converted seven of 14 third-down attempts. It's hard to explain how crucial, and effective, that is in any game, but especially on the road. It's a number that always bears watching.
  5. Six sacks in the last two games suggests that New Orleans' pass rush is warming up. Giants quarterback Eli Manning probably is the least mobile quarterback the Saints have faced to this point. Defensive end Cam Jordan, who's tied for the league lead with four sacks, and the Saints have a good chance to harass Manning on Sunday.
  6. It's pretty amazing that the Saints were able to win a road game despite being penalized 11 times, for 120 yards. They only had been penalized 12 times, total, in the first two games. As impressive as it was to overcome the penalties against Atlanta, that's not a recipe that routinely can be repeated.

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