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NFL Week 16 Preview: Saints run offense needs to be better vs. Vikings run defense

The Saints understandably had to turn away from the run vs. the Chiefs, but now they need to get back to basics

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints did their best to keep their pass-run ratio balanced against the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s 32-29 loss, but Patrick Mahomes has a way of mucking up a gameplan. The Saints ended with 34 passes and 17 rushes, and although that can be forgiven for one week, it’s emblematic of a bigger problem in the Saints offense.

Indeed, the past two weeks the Saints have been down at some point or another, and their pass-run ratio has been thrown way off balance. Against the Eagles, the Saints threw the ball 38 times to 20 rushes with Taysom Hill under center after losing an early lead. The reality right now is that the Saints aren’t built to play from behind.

All of this to say: The Saints need to re-find their footing against a Vikings team that has stumbled in recent weeks. After winning five of six to get themselves to .500 on the season, the Vikings have dropped their last two. The Saints defense found itself in a track meet last week, and the offense needs to keep them on the field in what will be a physical game.

Again the run, the Vikings are currently 23rd in the league with slightly over 125 yards allowed per game. The Saints are rushing for about 131 yards per game this season. In his career against Mike Zimmer’s Vikings, Alvin Kamara has generally been stymied. Latavius Murray didn’t get many touches in his one matchup against the Vikes as a Saint either. This might be a game in which Taysom Hill gets a lot of packaged looks, as he picked up 50 yards on just four carries in last year’s postseason showdown.

Eric Kendricks and Eric Wilson have been an outstanding duo for the Vikings this season, but with Kendricks missing the last two practices with a foot injury the Saints may target runs on the second level more often. Defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson has also left the last two practices. This is a Viking front that is decimated by injuries, so look for the Saints to be physical early on.

Up front for the Saints, Andrus Peat and Nick Easton are both battling injuries, however, so it’s not all smooth sailing for New Orleans. If the Saints need to go to the seventh man, things might be difficult early on.

All things told, the Saints need to keep the Vikings off the field so Dalvin Cook doesn’t keep the Saints defense on it. In order to be successful, the Saints need to be solid early on so that they’re able to stick to their ground game. Otherwise, it could be a long game for the Saints defense, especially with their recent issues against the run.

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