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Monday, December 2, 2013
W2W4: Tackling the problems

By Mike Triplett

The New Orleans Saints’ biggest game of the year to date deserves the biggest What 2 Watch 4. This is Part 2 of 4 as we count down toward the Saints’ “Monday Night Football” showdown at the Seattle Seahawks.

The Saints can probably appreciate better than any team in the NFL how difficult it is to tackle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. (Click here for ESPN.com’s collection of memories from both teams of Lynch’s classic 67-yard playoff run against the Saints three years ago).

Lynch
Lynch hasn’t slowed down much since then. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the punishing 5-foot-11, 215-pounder has the most 100-yard games in the NFL since the start of the 2011 season (19). And he is 75 yards shy of becoming the only player in the league with 1,000 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons.

“They’ve got a hired killer back there running the ball,” Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said.

“He’s the head of the train. He’s the engine. You’ve got to have a plan for him,” said Saints linebacker David Hawthorne -- a former teammate of Lynch in Seattle.

“Outside of Adrian Peterson, I think he’s probably the best back in the league as far as yards after contact,” Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “He’s a tough tackle. You definitely gotta get population to the football. ... He’s definitely somebody we’ve got to control and keep under wraps and not get into the secondary, because he’s a big threat.”

“You’re not going to arm-tackle him,” Saints linebacker Parys Haralson said. “It’s going to be one of those games where you’re going to come out and you’re going to have a little red bruise above your nose.”

But that’s not just the case with Lynch. Ryan, Saints players and former Saints safety Darren Sharper all brought up how good the entire Seahawks offense is at breaking and eluding tackles.

“They’ve got great stiff-arms when they run the ball, [Lynch] and [quarterback] Russell Wilson. [Receiver] Golden Tate does some really good things after he catches the ball. So they’ve got some weapons, and we understand that,” Saints safety Roman Harper said.

So far, the Saints have been excellent in that department this year -- one of the biggest reasons for their remarkable defensive turnaround. According to Pro Football Focus, the Saints came into this week with the fewest missed tackles in the NFL this year -- 57, including special teams. Last year, the Saints ranked 31st in the NFL with 128 missed tackles on defense (not including special teams).