METAIRIE, La. -- While the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints are known as high scoring teams, they come by it through different means.
If the sixth-seeded Saints are to upset the third-seeded Eagles in Saturday's wild-card game at Lincoln Financial Field, they will need to get more from their running game, especially with the temperature forecast below the freezing mark. Conversely, they will also need to limit the Eagles' potent ground attack.
The Eagles average 27.6 points per game, which is fourth in the NFL while the Saints stand at 10th with a 25.9 average.
A major difference in the offenses is the run game. The Eagles led the NFL in rushing, averaging 160.4 yards while the Saints were 25th at 92.1.
As a team the Saints have rushed for 1,473 yards. By himself, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy led the NFL with 1,607 rushing yards.
The Eagles led the NFL with 5.1 yards per carry, while the Saints average 3.8 yards per carry. This season the Eagles have 19 rushing touchdowns compared to 10 for the Saints.
Even with quarterback Drew Brees having thrown for 5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns, the passing game would get a major lift if the Saints can run the ball. Pierre Thomas 549 yards, 3.7 yards per carry) is New Orleans' leading rusher.
The Saints were 19th in rushing defense (111.6 yards per game, 4.6 yards per carry).
If the Saints can't stop the run, that will also open things up even more for the Eagles' proficient passing game in which quarterback Nick Foles has thrown 27 touchdown passes and two interceptions, the best touchdown-interception ratio in NFL history.
In addition, if the Saints have success stopping the run, it will also allow the pass rushing duo of defensive end Cameron Jordan (121/2 sacks) and outside linebacker Junior Galette (12 sacks) to have more freedom to rush Foles.
Thomas, like many in the NFL, has watched what McCoy has achieved with great admiration.
"He's a strong runner, a quick, fast, agile guy and he is hard to take down," Thomas said of McCoy. "He can make you miss. He can do a lot."
Like many of the Eagles opponents this year, the Saints have a deep concern about keeping up with the Birds' offense, which makes opponents alter their defensive plans because of how quickly they run their plays.
The difficulty starts this week in practice.
"The pace is extremely fast, extremely fast and so we will have our work cut out for us this week with just trying to replicate or get the same look as our scout team offense," Saint coach Sean Payton said.
As the Saints begin their first full practice on Wednesday, it will be at a faster pace.
"I just think you definitely have to prepare in practice at that tempo," Saints linebacker David Hawthorne said. "You don't want to be surprised by it when you get to game time."
The Saints like to do a lot of situational substituting on defense and Hawthorne admits that could change somewhat.
"We'll probably keep a couple of packages in longer than they'll usually be in," Hawthorne said. "If they sub, then obviously we get an opportunity to sub, but if they're just tempoing us, we're going to have to try and keep it rolling."
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