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Thursday, January 6, 2011
Lack of Saints RB puts pressure on Brees


Although many figure the Seattle Seahawks a mere speed bump on the New Orleans Saints’ road to the divisional round of the playoffs, the Saints' offense is in a state of flux.

Chris Ivory
Ivory
After placing running backs Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory on injured reserve in the week leading to the playoffs, the Saints' active leading rusher is Julius Jones, who compiled 193 yards during the regular season.

The biggest loss will be Ivory, who anchored the Saints' power rushing attack during the regular season as a rookie.

With seven or more defenders in the box this season, Ivory had 114 carries for over five yards a rush with 36 runs resulting in first downs. The five other Saints running backs who had carries in those situations this season combined for 140 carries for 3.3 yards per rush and 32 first downs.

Luckily for the Saints, they can put the load on the capable shoulders of Drew Brees. Brees had an interesting matchup against the Seahawks in their Week 11 meeting, a 34-19 Saints victory.

In that game, Brees was intercepted twice on throws of 10 yards of fewer, with a passer rating of 55.7, his lowest rating in that situation in a game this season. However, Brees had a perfect 158.3 passer rating on throws longer than 10 yards, completing 80 percent of his passes!

Under center for Seattle will be Matt Hasselbeck, instead of Charlie Whitehurst, who led them to victory in the winner-take-all NFC West de facto championship game last week against the Rams. And, looking at the numbers, you can’t question the decision.

The Saints brought at least six pass rushers 47 more times than any other team this season, and Hasselbeck thrived under such pressure this season. Hasselbeck’s passer rating of 123.1 was far better than Whitehurst’s mark of 45.8.

In that Week 11 matchup, the Saints brought six or more pass rushers six times against Hasselbeck, and he delivered. He went a perfect six-for-six for 128 yards with a touchdown when faced with the extra pressure.