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Ravens

Many Modest Outings Powering Saints Offense

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — As much as Reggie Bush would like to showcase his game-breaking ability on a regular basis, it has become obvious to him that the New Orleans Saints’ offense doesn’t require that from any particular player.

The Saints’ current six-game winning streak has only reinforced that notion, with a lot of players combining to do the little things well and producing a lot of points in the process.

“We spread the ball around. That’s what this offense does,”Bush said.

The flashy running back and punt returner hasn’t had a big day, or a big play, since returning from a broken right leg three games ago. Rather, he has been like numerous other teammates making modest but important gains when called upon as the Saints have kept drives moving, racked up yards and scored at least 30 points in each of their last five games.

“I don’t know if there’s another football team out there that has a more talented offense, pound for pound,” Bush continued.

“There might be teams that are as talented as us, but I think when you go from each player on our offense, it’s tough to match up on anybody one-on-one. Then when we have everybody healthy, we’re able to spread the ball around and that’s tough. That’s a nightmare for a defensive coordinator.”

The Baltimore Ravens, who New Orleans meets on the road this Sunday, have long had one of the best defenses in the league. The Saints would like to think they match up well with just about any defense because they can count on so many players to contribute just enough key gains each to keep overall point production high.

In a 31-13 victory over St. Louis last Sunday, not one Saints running back had a 100-yard game, yet Pierre Thomas — who was in his first game back from a nine-game absence caused by a left ankle sprain — combined with rookie Chris Ivory and Bush for a total of 125 yards rushing and 51 yards receiving out of the backfield.

No Saints tight end had even 30 yards receiving the day, yet Jeremy Shockey, rookie Jimmy Graham and David Thomas combined for six catches for 54 yards.

Wide receiver Robert Meachem, who had been emerging as a big play threat lately with a 32-yard TD catch against Seattle, a crucial 55-yard gain to set up a winning score at Dallas and a 52-yard TD at Cincinnati, didn’t have a single catch against St. Louis. But the attention he drew from defenders as he stretched the field opened things up for Lance Moore and Marques Colston, who combined for 10 catches for 116 yards and three TDs.

Ravens safety Ed Reed is quite familiar with the Saints’ offense, even though Baltimore only has to play New Orleans once every few years. Reed grew up a Saints fan in suburban New Orleans and still refers to the Saints as his “home team.”

“The Saints are very good at what they do,” Reed said. “Sean Payton is a great coach and that offense is everywhere. You have all kinds of threats, every different personnel group, at every type. You have to be on point. You have to be on your P’s and Q’s at all times. With Drew Brees back there, he’s throwing the ball everywhere. You got to cover everybody.”

During the past six games, there have been three individual 100-yard receiving performance, though not one with more than Colston’s 113 yards against Seattle. Colston also had 105 yards at Dallas and Meachem had 106 yards at Cincinnati.

Brees has thrown for more than 300 yards in four of those games, and as much as 382 against Seattle. Brees’ two other totals during the winning streak were 253 yards at Carolina and 221 against St. Louis, both lopsided victories that featured strong team rushing performances.

The Saints have gone over 400 total yards four times in the last six games, with their lowest total being 318 in a 20-10 victory over Pittsburgh to start their winning streak.

“The last six weeks, I feel like gradually each and every week we’re just getting a little bit better,” Brees said. “We’re
tapping into all our resources, all the play makers, especially the last couple weeks getting some guys healthy and really being able to spread the ball around and mix and match and do a really good
job with the run game.

“I feel like we’re throwing a lot at defenses right now and it’s hard to keep up.”

NOTES: Saints coach Sean Payton isn’t giving away who will take kickoff returns this Sunday with Courtney Roby expected to be out while recovering from a concussion.

While Roby is expected to return later this season, possibilities for his replacement on Sunday in Baltimore include Thomas, Meachem, receiver Devery Henderson, running back Julius Jones and rookie cornerback Patrick Robinson.

Thomas’ last kickoff return was a 40-yarder to open overtime in last season’s NFC title game. He sounded like he’d be ready for another chance even though he’s in only his second game back from injury.

“I feel that my ankle would allow me to do just about anything out there,” Thomas said. “I do it in practice. If they need me, I told them I’m always there. I’m always ready to step up for whatever cause there is.”

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