METAIRIE (AP) —People don't spend much time talking about flaws on the Saints offense; but on occasion, the topic comes up, and what's been most cited lately is a ground game averaging three-yards per carry, as well as quarterback Drew Brees' being sacked more than he has since arriving in New Orleans.
However, as the Saints returned from their off week and began gearing up Monday for the final 10 games of their season, two other conspicuous cracks are showing in the offense's armor.
New Orleans is still scoring touchdowns less than half the time it ventures beyond its opponents' 20. And a wide receiver corps that on paper promised to be tough to stop, despite the loss of Joe Morgan to a year-ending knee injury in training camp, hasn't been responsible for many yards at all.
The Saints will want to patch that up as they strive to capitalize on an opportunity to lock up home-field advantage throughout the postseason. No one in New Orleans will forget what happened the last time the Saints managed to do that in 2009.
Saints wide receivers have tallied just 660 of the team's 1,958 receiving yards — and three of the 14 touchdowns. The relative quietness of the receivers didn't matter when tight end Jimmy Graham caught 37 catches for six touchdowns and a league-high 593 yards in the first five games.
Lance Moore has been inactive since hurting a hand in Week 3, but he hadn't been much of a factor before his injury.
All of that enabled New England to keep the team's second-most productive receiver, running back Darren Sproles (32 catches for 366 yards and a touchdown), out of the end zone and hold him to six catches for 58 yards.
To be fair, Colston (24 catches for 324 yards and a touchdown) and Stills (10 catches for 198 yards and a touchdown) have contributed decently, and the wideouts have avoided any costly drops. But there's a steep drop-off in numbers from wide receivers after Colston and Stills: Toon has three catches for 60 yards, Moore has four catches for 44 yards, and Meachem has two catches for 34 yards and a touchdown.
New Orleans can expect teams to attempt to mimic the way the Patriots contained Graham. The receivers need to be ready and able to exploit the opportunities afforded them.
Nonetheless, the Saints on Monday emerged from their off week at 5-1, gaining 397.7 yards per game, a commendable sixth-best in the NFL.