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Monday, December 2, 2013
W2W4: Closing the screen door?

By Mike Triplett

The New Orleans Saints' biggest game of the year to date deserves the biggest What 2 Watch 4. This is Part 3 of 4 as we count down toward the Saints’ “Monday Night Football” showdown at the Seattle Seahawks.

Thomas
Sproles
With the weather conditions a likely factor tonight, and the Seahawks’ outstanding pass defense even more of a factor, it would stand to reason that the Saints might rely on the short passing attack with running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles that has served them so well. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Thomas and Sproles have ranked first and second in the NFL in receiving yards on screen passes since the start of the 2011 season

However, that’s yet another area where Seattle’s defense has excelled. During that same span, the Seahawks have allowed the fewest passing yards, yards per play and lowest Total Quarterback Rating on screen passes, without allowing a single touchdown.

“They play a lot of down safety defense and not as much shell, if you will,” Saints coach Sean Payton explained -- meaning, the Seahawks often line up safeties close to the line of scrimmage, crowding that area of the field. “There’s an additional player in the alley that can make it problematic. So when we put on the reel -- we put on the screen reel each week, the naked reel, the play-action reel -- you can see without looking at the statistics that those are tough plays against this defense.”

So something’s got to give in one of many fascinating chess matches that will play out between the NFC’s top two teams.