Keys to victory: Saints vs Colts - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Keys to victory: Saints vs Colts

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The New Orleans Saints take on the Colts in Indianapolis Thursday night in the NFL season opener.

Saints

1. Find Anthony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark The Saints have a pretty cut-throat defense and a couple of factors working in their favor -- a rookie left tackle for Indy named Tony Ugoh and a second-year running back, Joseph Addai, who hasn't shown he can be a workhorse. If the Saints bring extra pressure, though, they can't lose track of dangerous Dallas Clark at tight end or rookie slot receiver Anthony Gonzalez. Peyton Manning will use those utensils to carve New Orleans up if he gets the chance.

2. Don't Get Caught Watching the Paint Dry The last thing Sean Payton wants to hear Thursday night is, "Hey, check it out. I didn't know John Mellencamp was such a midget!" The hoopla surrounding the NFL lid-lifter should neither be seen nor heard by New Orleans. It's the Colts' party. The best thing the Saints can do is take it as an insult that they have to sit through it all and resolve to be the turd in the punch bowl.

3. Heavy Dose of Deuce The Colts' run defense is not as good as it appeared to be during the 2006 playoffs. The Saints need to prove it if they want to win. If they get Deuce McAllister's diesel revved up early, they wear down the Colts undersized D and keep Manning and his buddies on the sidelines.

Colts

1. Beware the screens Want a darkhorse candidate for Offensive Player of the Year? Try Reggie Bush. By the end of the season, the Saints had perfected getting him the ball in space. He had three games with 125 yards or more of receiving after Dec.1 and four games with five or more catches. Chip him, grab him, shadow him but don't let Bush whack you, Indy.

2. Sanders in the box The little missile, Bob Sanders is going to have to play big once again. The Saints are going to complement the screens and flair passes with McAllister between the tackles. Sanders is going to have to do damage in run support but be careful not to get caught in the box while the Saints big-play receivers Marques Colston and Devery Henderson run loose behind him.

3. Don't Put on a Show The great triumph of Peyton Manning last year was that he kept the driver in the bag during the playoffs and laid up when he had to. He didn't get greedy, witness the number of receptions for Dominic Rhodes and Addai in the Super Bowl, and that made him more dangerous than he'd ever been. Neither he nor his offense can afford to treat this game as anything bigger than it is. Take what's there, checkdown and move the chains. Don't worry about Marvin's pouting.

(Tom E. Curran)

For more NFL coverage, visit NBCSports.com.

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