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Titans running game to challenge struggling Saints

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; By SHELDON MICKLES Advocate sportswriter Published: Sep 20, 2 007 METAIRIE — After giving up 11 pass plays of 24 yards or more — including five touchdowns —in their first two games, the New Orleans Saints defense faces a different ...

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Old 09-20-2007, 08:18 PM   #1
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Cool Titans running game to challenge struggling Saints

Advocate sportswriter
Published: Sep 20, 2

METAIRIE — After giving up 11 pass plays of 24 yards or more — including five touchdowns —in their first two games, the New Orleans Saints defense faces a different challenge this week.

Instead of the pass, the Saints will have to be ready to defend the run first in their home opener against the Tennessee Titans on Monday night in the Superdome. And they had better be up to the task.

After two games, the Titans lead the NFL in rushing with 211.5 yards a game. They pounded the Jacksonville Jaguars for 282 yards in the season opener and last week picked up 141 yards against the Indianapolis Colts.

So there’s no doubt the running game has been the bright light in their 1-1 start. And, according to the Saints, there’s little doubt about what the Titans are going to do Monday night.

“They’re a team that comes out there and doesn’t use any tricks,” Saints middle linebacker Mark Simoneau said. “They just come off the ball. They have a physical team and like to come right at you. That’s how they’ve had success. You have to be ready to play a physical game against these guys.”

The Titans don’t do it with just one running back. Against the Jaguars, Chris Brown slashed his way to 175 yards on 19 carries with a long run of 42 yards and LenDale White added 66 yards on 18 attempts.

Last week, the 235-pound White led the team with 64 yards on 15 carries and Brown had 34 yards in a complementary role. But quarterback Vince Young joined the party with 53 yards on five carries.

Saints defensive tackle Hollis Thomas, a run-stopping specialist who could return to the starting lineup because of a turf toe injury to Kendrick Clancy, said the defense will be up to the challenge.

“We’re ready to go every week,” he said. “They’re No. 1 in the NFL right now and they’re doing a good job of running both their backs. They have a good physical offensive line, so we’ll be put to the test this week.”

The Saints rank 22nd against the run in allowing 125.5 yards a game in their first two games. But in last week’s 31-14 setback to Tampa Bay, they held the Bucs to 87 yards and just 2.7 yards per attempt.

“The Bucs had a good scheme, but we were able to corral them,” Thomas said. “This week we got two good backs — one big guy (White) and one slasher (Brown). So we have to be at our best again.”

“Both of those guys are doing a great job,” strongside linebacker Scott Fujita said. “It’s two backs that really fit into what they’re trying to do. That’s how they’re going to try and attack us.

“They have a big strong, physical offensive line that uses a lot of zone blocking stuff, which is great for what those two guys do. They’re going to try and pound us, so we just have to be ready for them.”

Titans coach Jeff Fisher, whose team finished fifth in the league in rushing last season, is certainly pleased with what he’s seen. But he knows it’s early.

“Obviously, it’s been an emphasis of ours dating back to early last season,” Fisher said. “It was important for us to get back to running the football. We finished last year running it pretty well, but you don’t know if it’s going to carry over or not.

“We emphasized it and worked on it through training camp and the preseason, and were fortunate to get off to a good start in the opener. We had some efficient runs against the Colts. Statistics are very, very misleading this early in the season.”

But Thomas isn’t buying that at all.

“What they did in the first two games was very impressive,” he said. “The offensive line is doing a great job of blocking the plays that they like to run. So you just have to line up stripe to stripe and see who wins.”

While Young and the Titans haven’t been much of a passing threat with only 120.0 yards a game so far, the Saints have to be aware of his ability to take off and run.

“He does a lot of great things in the pocket, so it’s going to come down to our ends being able to contain him and just play good ball that way,” said Fujita. “But it’s really their running game. That’s how they’re going to attack us.”

Simoneau said the key, as it is every week, will be in holding the Titans running game down and forcing them to go to the air.

“We have to get them in those third-and-6 and third-and-8 situations,” he said. “You always want to make a team one-dimensional, but it’s more important to play well against the run this week.”

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