Saints’ blossoming ground game facing stiff test against Falcons

Saints’ blossoming ground game facing stiff test against Falcons

Credit: AP

New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas (23) runs up field as Indianapolis Colts free safety Antoine Bethea (41) pursues during the second quarter of an NFL football game at the Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

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wwltv.com

Posted on December 24, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Updated Sunday, Dec 25 at 1:21 PM

Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports


METAIRIE, La. ― The last time New Orleans played Atlanta, the Saints were held to a season-low 41 rushing yards.

And still the Saints won 26-23 in overtime.

But since that game, the Saints have racked up two of their five best rushing days of the season.

It’s no coincidence that Monday night would mark the seventh straight game with the same lineup on the offensive line should Jahri Evans start. Evans had his left knee rolled up on against Minnesota and didn’t practice the first two days of the work week.

“I know we weren’t as satisfied as we wanted to be in that game,” Evans said. “We kind of went to the air a little bit.”

The Saints have put up 580 yards rushing in the past four games.

Meanwhile, the Falcons enter, once again, with one of the league’s top rushing defenses, holding opponents to 96.6 rushing yards per game, fourth-best in the NFL.

“They’re quick up front,” Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. “They do a lot of line movement. Good linebackers who play downhill. You’ve got a bunch of guys moving, we have to be really technique-sound, on our assignments during and after the ball is snapped.”

Statistically, though, the Falcons have slid a bit on rush defense.

After holding the Saints to 41 yards, they held the Titans to 41 yards as well. Since then, the Vikings rushed for 64 yards, the Texans picked up 162, the Panthers had 157 and the Jaguars finished with 116.

In the eleven games previous to this past three-game stretch, Atlanta allowed only four 100-yard games.

Bushrod would like to start out the game firing on the ground, giving the Saints coaching staff reason to stick with the run game.

“Us, offensive line-wise, we want to fight to get as many yards as possible,” Bushrod said. “If they’re shutting down the run, they know they can just pin their ears back and pass rush. That’s not really something we really want to get into. We want to continue to fight to be balanced and whatever happens, happens.”

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