So far this season, the New Orleans Saints haven't been able to establish a winning streak. And it won't happen this week, either; in Sunday's game against Washington (2-2) at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., the Saints (2-2) will be looking to rebound from a deflating, 27-21 overtime home loss to the Giants.
But the Saints have shown bounce-back ability once this season, rebounding from a 26-7 loss to Carolina with a 28-13 win over New England. They hope to do so again against the Washington Football Team. Here are a few ways they can:
1. COVER WASHINGTON'S HEINICKE: Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke presents some of the same issues that were presented by Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, and that didn't go so well for the Saints' defense. New Orleans wasn't effectively able to pressure Jones, and he had his way for the final three quarters and overtime (402 passing yards and two touchdowns, plus 27 rushing yards on four attempts and a crucial two-point conversion run). Heinicke has been fantastic in Washington's two wins, with a combined 626 passing yards on 72 percent completions (57 of 79), with five touchdowns and one interception, and he also ran nine times for 49 yards in those games. New Orleans has to maintain its rush-lane integrity, to keep Heinicke in the pocket, and get to him when he's there. A few batted passes won't hurt, either, if the rush can't sack him. The secondary is a lot more stressed when the opposing quarterback has time, so it's imperative that the Saints limit Heinicke's.
2. JAMEIS LOOSED: Quarterback Jameis Winston had his most productive day as a Saint, in terms of passing yards, against the Giants. He's completing 64 percent of his passes – a number that's skewed by the 11-for-22 against Carolina – and seven of his eight touchdown passes have been thrown in the red zone, where New Orleans is 11-for-12 this season. WFT is allowing 300 passing yards per game, and opponents have 10 touchdown passes, with one interception. Winston appears to be earning more and more trust each week, and Washington's pass defense appears to be somewhat accommodating. The protection has to be right, which goes without saying, but Winston gives a big-play, quick-strike ability to the passing game and the Saints might be able to post a chunk play or two Sunday.
3. BE SPECIAL: We probably take for granted how good the Saints' special team units have been, which is why it's always so glaring when the units stumble. They stumbled against New York, with a missed field goal and a critical 26-yard punt return allowed; the former prevented points from being scored and the latter directly led to points allowed. The former was addressed with the release of Aldrick Rosas and signing of Cody Parkey. Parkey likely won't have pristine conditions to kick under at FedEx Field, but he has been an effective kicker outside before. The cover teams will have to rebound, because WFT receiver Deandre Carter had a 101-yard kickoff return touchdown against Atlanta. This could be a game where the Saints need a punt block or a big return to ignite the team, and they're fully capable of doing either. Also, the units will want to respond to their worst game of the season.
4. EAT THE CLOCK: Winston could have a big game through the air. So, too, could Alvin Kamara on the ground. Washington allows 118 rushing yards per game and the Saints average 144. The ground game chews up the clock and if the Saints manage to score efficiently while milking time, it can put tons of pressure on the opponent, as it did with Green Bay and New England. Pound away at a defense that has struggled so far this season, and it could lead to a breaking point at some juncture. Kamara has had 50 carries for 209 yards the last two games, the highest back-to-back carry totals in his career. Dwayne Washington and Ty Montgomery likely will provide the relief, but with New Orleans heading into a bye week, Kamara would have time off to recover if another heavy workday is in store.
ZATARAIN'S KEY INGREDIENTS RECIPE OF THE WEEK:
JAMBALAYA BREAKFAST CASSEROLE
Jambalaya for breakfast? Turn regular Zatarain's Jambalaya Mix into a flavorful morning treat everyone will love and ask for seconds of. This simple recipe combines eggs, Monterey Jack cheese, red bell peppers and green onions. Make the jambalaya rice mixture the night before for easy prep in the morning.