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Saints' running game could be set for takeoff

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Dan Parr
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Posted Oct. 04, 2011 @ 1:46 a.m. ET
By Dan Parr

Winners of three straight games since losing to the Packers in the opener, the Saints are on a roll and looking to keep it going heading into their Week Five battle against the reeling Panthers, who lost for the third time in four games.

No team has more pass attempts than the Saints (174) this season, and they rank second in the league in passing offense, but the team is restocked at running back, and the trio of Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles has been a nice complement to the aerial attack led by QB Drew Brees. Head coach Sean Payton may want to consider emphasizing the running game even more against Carolina, which has been hit hard by injuries at linebacker.

Bears RB Matt Forté racked up 205 yards on the ground vs. the Panthers Sunday.

The PFW Spin

The Panthers are ranked 31st vs. the run, giving up 143.8 yards rushing per game, and three of the four teams they have faced this season rank 14th or lower in rushing offense.

It's not as if they have faced nothing but powerhouse running teams. Forté, who lit them up Sunday, had been held to two yards rushing on nine carries one week earlier against Green Bay.

The Saints have an interior O-line, led by OGs Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, that could be dominant against Carolina's rookie defensive tackles, Sione Fua and Terrell McClain. It's not hard to envision Saints blockers getting to the second level and clearing the way for some long runs by the running backs. There's a good mix of speed and power between the three backs the Saints utilize, and they combined to make 30 carries for 166 yards (5.5 average) Sunday against the Jaguars.

Picking up steady yards on the ground will keep the clock ticking and relegate QB Cam Newton and the Panthers' third-ranked passing game to the sideline.

In order to slow down the Saints, the Panthers are going to have to play better against the run, and putting a safety in the box to try to stuff the ground game isn't an enticing option when Brees is on the other side.

It's on the Carolina front seven to step up, and it's having trouble doing so without injured LBs Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, both of whom are out for the season.

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