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


METAIRIE, La. ― Two seasons ago, the Saints were hosting the Vikings in the NFC championship game, both teams appearing to be set to contend for many seasons to come.

But while New Orleans has maintained a high level, the Vikings have not.

And yet, Minnesota (2-11) boasts one of the top defensive lines in the NFL.

Defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison have combined for 231/2 sacks, with Allen's 171/2 leading the NFL.

Additionally, Allen's four fumble recoveries lead the NFL.

'Guys like Jared Allen are too good and too difficult especially when they're playing at home with the noise, so we have to be really mindful of mixing up the location of where Drew is throwing from, mixing up how we're protecting him and understand the challenges that third downs or passing downs present on the road,' Saints coach Sean Payton said.

It'll be a test of New Orleans' offense in the home stretch of the season, a time when a test is good but dangerous.

Minnesota is third in the NFL in sacks per pass play and, with 40 total sacks, also is third in the NFL.

New Orleans, meanwhile, is third in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play, not a bad statistic when considering the Saints lead the league in passes by 25 passes.

Additionally, the Saints are seventh in sacks allowed with just 23.

Payton has a plan to counteract the Vikings' pass rush.

'I think we always try to look at each game plan with a certain number of throws outside of the pocket so the launch point isn't consistent,' Payton said.'An example would be that there are certain throws that come out on three-step rhythm, certain throws that will be off of nakeds or movements, certain throws that will be sprint-outs so that it's not one stationary target.'

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