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brucealan 12-10-2010 04:24 PM

Surging Saints Put Streak on Line Against Rams
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Running back Pierre Thomas will play for the first time in nine games when New Orleans hosts NFC West co-leading St. Louis...

As if they needed to get any stronger.

The New Orleans Saints, who've strung together five straight victories while looking increasingly capable of a repeat Super Bowl-winning performance, have re-added yet another important piece of last season's championship puzzle.

Running back Pierre Thomas, limited by injury to just 46 carries this season, returned to a full practice this week and will play for the first time in nine games when the Saints host the NFC West co-leading St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

At 9-3, New Orleans trails streaking Atlanta by a game for first place in the NFC South and would enter the playoffs at this point as the conference's No. 5 seed. The Saints visit Baltimore and the Falcons in the next two weeks before hosting Tampa Bay in the season finale on Jan. 2.

Thomas, who ran for a team-best 793 yards and caught 39 passes last season, severely sprained his left ankle in a Week 3 loss at Atlanta. He rejoins a New Orleans backfield that's seen rookie Christopher Ivory emerge in the absence of Thomas and Reggie Bush.

"I don't know [my role]. That's up to the coaches," Thomas said. "I just know when my name is called I'm going to take advantage of my opportunities. That's the only way I'm going to be able to prove myself to everybody that I'm back and I'm myself again and that this injury is not holding me back."

Ivory gained 117 yards on 15 carries in the Saints' 34-30 victory over Cincinnati last week. He scored twice against Dallas a week earlier and went for 99 yards and a score against Seattle three games ago.

"Chris has done a number of good things, and I don't want to affect his snap count at all in regards to his carries," Saints head coach Sean Payton said. "He's a different type of runner than either Pierre or Reggie. He runs hard. I thought he ran well [in Cincinnati]."

Bush returned for the last two games after suffering a broken bone in his right leg.

The resurgent Rams, who won just once last season, are tied atop the NFC West with 6-6 Seattle and hold a tie-breaker edge by virtue of a 20-3 win over the Seahawks in St. Louis in Week 4.
Surging Saints Put Streak on Line Against Rams

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