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Friday, October 30, 2009
Falcons must slow Saints' run game

By Ron Jaworski

"Monday Night Football" analyst Ron Jaworski takes a look at the problem of slowing down the New Orleans Saints:

A good midseason question is this: How do you stop the Saints' offense? Most people will be surprised at my answer. I was surprised at it myself. But to stop the Saints right now you have to stop their running game. It's amazing, but that is really the answer.

In the second half of games this year, when the Saints are seizing control of the game, running the ball 61 percent of the time, the highest percentage of any team in the league. They are really getting it done up front with Jonathan Goodwin, Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans anchoring a strong Saints offensive live.

One of the reasons they do such a good job running is that they use what I call the "easy" technique. Teams generally deal with the Saints as a passing offense first. So TE Jeremy Shockey, and occasionally their wide receivers, will release into a pass route and take a linebacker with him. This opens up a vacated area for the Saints' running backs. The Saints actually use their passing game to set up their running games, particularly in the second half.

Outside of Peyton Manning, I don't think any QB in the league controls the ball better than Drew Brees. He throws the ball exactly where he wants it. He can put it high, low, back shoulder, on the numbers or whatever is best for the play. Brees also benefits from Sean Payton's beautifully designed, innovative passing game.

Brees is playing at a high level, but I think he has to. They are really struggling at left tackle. Zach Strief and Jermon Bushrod have been merely adequate. An immobile quarterback would be big trouble for this team, but Brees can move in the pocket and sense the rush.

Stopping the Saints is no easy job. But a good start is to focus more on the running game, which will now be challenged to replace injured FB Heath Evans, and maybe then try to exploit their left tackles.