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Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints: Keys to the Game

hispandrix
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Sep 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; New Orleans Saints offense huddles during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3: ‘The Rally Cry’

Another week down, and we’re back with another Keys to the Game segment, Who Dat Nation! It’s Week three, and we’re putting the past two weeks aside to check out the Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints matchup, which is officially deemed as the ‘Dome Opener’ for the black and gold.

Let’s get started with some power rankings for the Saints:

  • ESPN – #16 (Previous Rank: #6) -10
  • CBS – #24 (Previous Rank: #10) -14
  • FOX – #16 (Previous Rank: #6) -10
  • NFL – #16 (Previous Rank: #11) -5
  • USA Today – #18 (Previous Rank: #11) -7
  • Who Dat Dish – #16 (Previous Rank: #12) -4

Again I’ll reiterate this, you can’t lose and expect to move up in the power rankings. It appears Prisco from CBS let’s the hate flow through him.

What to Watch For

Offense – I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a running game again. This was the difference maker for the 2006, 2009, and 2011 Saints. As a whole, those squads fielded a 100-yard rushing game attack. All eyes are on second-year running back, Khiry Robinson. He’s embraced the opportunity to start, and looks to make the most of it. Running behind this offensive line should generate many holes for Robinson, and we’d be happy to see his success to set up some pass plays.

Speaking of passing, Brandin Cooks was taken out of the equation last week, Marques Colston didn’t see a single target, and Drew Brees didn’t go over 300 yards in the game. Without Mark Ingram, I’d expect the Saints to dress five wide receivers in his absence. Perhaps the Vikings plan more for Jimmy Graham, which should allow Brees to get the ball more to his receivers. Of course this all starts with the pass blocking on offense.

Defense – Despite a better effort, the Saints’ defense couldn’t rise to occaison when the team needed them to most on the final drive. That tends to be a trait dating back to last season. We can all try to bury all of the ‘mess’ going on, but let’s just look at it like this: someone on the Saints defense has to step up and lead the charge.

The lack of turnovers and sacks are the most glaring issue on this defense. A unit that produced nearly three sacks/game last season has only generated two through two games. Matt Cassel went down six times last week to the Patriots, and through four interceptions. I don’t know how much more I can emphasize that we need to replicate the success. Cam Jordan and Junior Galette need to create some sacks.

Special Teams – Travaris Cadet single-handedly killed the Saints in terms of field position last week. The Saints had half of their ten drives start at their own 20-yard line or worse (the last drive at the end of the game doesn’t count in my eyes). Granted, there were a couple of punts, but Cadet has to be smarter about bringing out the ball, especially on the road. We know he can bring it out and give us some great returns, but not every return works that way.

Key #1 – Set the Tone from the Beginning

If you want to get the Dome rocking with the defense, then I’d blitz the first couple of plays. I think a smart disguise of a zone blitz would be smart. The Saints can’t expect Vikings running back, Matt Asiata, to run all over them like Adrian Peterson could. An early turnover or sack would speak volumes for this defense, and set the tone for the entire game. Keep an eye out for David Hawthorne‘s status for the game, who was injured in last week’s game (ankle).

Key #2 – Isolate Patterson, Get Robinson Help

Cordarrelle Patterson is the biggest threat on the Vikings offense. He doesn’t just do it on receiving, he’s a threat like Brandin Cooks. Having Patterson get in open space is dangerous to the Saints defense. I’ll be interested to see if Keenan Lewis matches up against him, or if it will be tasked to Patrick Robinson because of the speed factor. Speaking of Robinson, he needs help in this game. Even if Robinson doesn’t line up against Patterson, he still has Greg Jennings to defend against. Robinson shouldn’t play so far off of the ball, as Cassel will likely attempt to replicate the successes of Matt Ryan and Brian Hoyer. At any rate, Robinson needs some safety help. Perhaps Rafael Bush would be a perfect player to help, as he only played five snaps in last week’s game, something that is very uncharacteristic.

Key #3 – Step Up, Don’t Let Up, Don’t Give Up 

This team is having the deck stacked against them from all angles. Perhaps this is a good thing. I wrote an article earlier this week saying that The New Orleans Saints’ Season Is Far From Over. I believe that with all of my heart and soul. This game serves as a potential springboard for the rest of the season, and we’d be so fortunate to stare at 3-2 heading into the Week Six bye. The team could use a game similar to what Atlanta did last night against Tampa Bay.

We take it one play and one game at a time, and with the Saints, they need their leaders to focus this squad and hold them accountable. I look at veterans to lead the way if things do/do not go the Saints way. The coaching and play calling from Sean Payton and Rob Ryan are crucial at home, especially to establish rhythm and tempo.

Difference Maker

As much of the offensive focus might be on Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Brandin Cooks, and Khiry Robinson, I believe this week’s difference maker is Pierre Thomas. Thomas, like Robinson, will see an increased role this week. PT Cruiser is no stranger to making the first player(s) miss, and should the Saints’ downfield passing attack be neutralized like last week against the Browns, then look for Thomas to get his share of screens and looks.

Did You Know?

  • The Vikings hold the series lead in this matchup 20-10, out scoring the Saints 800-549.
  • This is the 31st time these two will meet.
  • The Saints have won the past three matchups (2011, 2010, 2009), including the past two at home, including the NFC Championship from 2009.
  • Drew Brees has a 2-1 regular season lifetime record against the Vikings, having completed nearly 70% of his passes (85/122). He has thrown for 979 yards, 7 TD-2INT, and has a 105.9 QB Rating.

Closing Thoughts

Since losing four straight to the Vikings (2002, 2004, 2005, 2008), the Saints have won three in a row. The sting from this once heated rivalry is long gone, and we don’t have Jared Allen around to make stupid comments. If we lose this game, then the panic button is pressed. If we win this game, it’s a stepping stone for the rest of the season. Either way, the Saints must bring their best to the Dome on Sunday. We all realize the importance of this game, and we must rally around Our Boys and lift them up.

If you’re attending the game on Sunday, then you better not leave with a voice. Cheer your team proudly, and let’s get out of this rut. 88 percent of the season is left. We’re not dead.

Prediction: Saints 31, Vikings 13

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