WHEN THE SAINTS HAVE THE BALL
A Saints offense best known for its exploits through the air is beginning to achieve some notoriety for the struggles of its run game, which have undoubtedly held back the attack as a whole. New Orleans has scored a league- low-tying one rushing touchdown, and is one of three teams that has yet to log a rush of 20 yards or longer (Broncos, Colts), with injuries to Reggie Bush (leg) and Pierre Thomas (ankle) helping to slow the unit down. Bush is out for Sunday and Thomas remains a question mark, so the team signed ex- Cowboys and Seahawks running back Julius Jones (30 rushing yards with the Seahawks) earlier in the week. Jones will compete for carries with Ladell Betts (91 rushing yards, 9 receptions) and Chris Ivory (119 rushing yards). The passing game remains a team strength, as the Saints are completing a league-best 71.4 percent of their passes, but Brees (1410 passing yards, 9 TD, 5 INT) must cut down on the turnovers. Wideouts Marques Colston (25 receptions) and Robert Meachem (10 receptions) come off their best days of the 2010 season, with Colston hauling in seven passes for 97 yards and Meachem logging four catches for 57 yards and his first touchdown of the season. Lance Moore (15 receptions, 3 TD) continues to lead the team in touchdown catches, and wideout Devery Henderson (17 receptions, 1 TD) and tight end Jeremy Shockey (23 receptions, 2 TD) have also been a major part of the offense,
Much like New Orleans' defense a year ago, the Bucs have had their problems defensively, in that they rank last in the league in sacks (4) and have given up plenty of yards, but have mitigated those deficiencies by averaging three forced turnovers per game, the top figure in the league. Last week, the Bucs had three huge interceptions off of Palmer, with rookie safety Cody Grimm (16 tackles, 1 INT) notching a pick that went the other way for an 11-yard touchdown, and cornerback Aqib Talib (10 tackles, 3 INT) and the safety Piscitelli (7 tackles, 1 INT) making game-changing interceptions in the fourth quarter. The back end needs more help, however from a pass rush led by ends Stylez G. White (13 tackles, 1 sack) and Tim Crowder (6 tackles, 2 sacks). The run defense last week was suspect, giving up 144 yards on 23 ground carries to the Bengals' Cedric Benson. Linebackers Barrett Ruud (31 tackles) and Geno Hayes (24 tackles) have been the Bucs' most active run-stoppers this year, and rookie tackle Gerald McCoy (5 tackles) has been a strong addition on the interior.