EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - There's more to the New Orleans Saints offense than Drew Brees these days, and the New York Giants know it.
While ranked 27th in the league in rushing, the Saints have a four-headed run attack that has averaged nearly 120 yards in the last five games.
If Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram get going on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Brees is going to have another big game and the Giants (7-5) may not find themselves alone in first place in the NFC East afterward.
The Giants have been shaky against the run of late. Washington gained 207 yards rushing last week with running back Alfred Morris and quarterback Robert Griffin III combining for 196. The Redskins gained 151 in the second half.
In four of New York's losses, the opposition has rushed for at least 100.
"A lot of people talk about their pass game and that's what a lot of people focus on," Giants linebacker Michael Boley said. "But they run the ball very well. They have four backs that can run it and they do a good job of putting those guys in good situations."
Coach Tom Coughlin said the Saints also have a big offensive line that can open holes as well as protect Brees.
"We've been victimized by that before," Coughlin said. "They rush the ball very well and the fullback (Jed Collins) is a good player."
Linebacker-defensive lineman Mathias Kiwanuka said some of the pre-play responsibility in defending opponents falls to veteran cornerback Corey Webster. It's his job to see who is coming on and off the field and to call it out to the defense. If Sproles is in the game, for example, there's a good chance he'd be an option for a pass out of the backfield.
"I don't want to repeat myself, but it's the same thing: You have to stop the run. You have to defend the pass and you have to get to the quarterback," Kiwanuka said. "If you don't stop the run, no team is going to throw the ball. But they are very effective at both. It all comes back to us as a defensive squad. If we play the way we can and everybody plays with the intensity we had a few weeks ago, we'll be fine."
The Saints, who likely need to win out to have a postseason chance, have had their way offensively with the Giants recently. They posted a 48-27 win in 2009 and ripped New York 49-24 last season. Brees threw eight touchdowns and no interceptions in those wins.
"I wanted to forget about that game because they kicked the (stuffing) out of us," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said of last year's contest. "We have a chance to defend them this time and we're doing everything that we possibly can, watching as much tape, getting as many tips as we can in order to be able to compete with these guys this year.
"They have a very good football team."
Fewell said the game was so bad that he didn't even want to watch the tape. But Webster did.
"I use that film to get better, move forward and see what we can use to help us be a better team this time around," he said. "Many mistakes that we made last year, hopefully we can correct and don't make those same mistakes. Any tip or tendency we can get from what they're doing that will help us in this game, I'm going to use that."
Make no mistake, the Saints still rely on the pass. Brees has thrown for a league-high 31 touchdowns to go along with 16 interceptions. But Boley said no matter what Brees has done, the principles of defense do not change.
"You have to read run first," he said. "That's with any team. If you are thinking pass first, you are going to be back on your heels and they are going to pound the ball at you."
Defensive tackle Chris Canty said if the Saints can run the ball, it will slow down the Giants pass rush. Webster concurs.
"We have to stop the run," he said. "It all starts up front. If you don't stop the run, it makes the pass game a lot easier. That will be a big challenge this week."