NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "Reasonable possibility." That's a term introduced into the Saints' lexicon this week given the chance of Drew Brees' recovery and participation against the Carolina Panthers.
Fans of the underdog Saints cling to the "reasonable possibility" of an upset no matter the quarterback nor the circumstances.
The Saints have split the series rivalry the last two seasons with each team winning those games on the road. New Orleans actually holds a winning record against the Panthers as the visitor.
For that trend to continue on Sunday, it would seem imperative that the Saints uncover a running game offensively and cover-up the Panthers' reliance on the same.
The Saints average just 79 yards on the ground in the first two games of the season - 25th in the NFL. Coincidentally, the Panthers surrender just 79 yards a game on the ground - seventh best in the NFL.
While the Saints struggled again in that area during the first half last week against the Bucs, Khiry Robinson gave them a spark when he entered the contest, gaining 48 yards in five carries, an average of 9.6 yards per opportunity. Ryan Mallett was forced to throw the ball 58 times for the Texans last week in their loss to the panthers. That would be disastrous for the Saints given their quarterback situation.
Just as a huge disparity exists for the Saints between their success passing the ball versus running it, the same sort of disparity exists in the opposite way for the Panthers.
The Panthers rushed for 172 yards last week against Houston. Quarterback Cam Newton alone has rushed for more yards than the Eagles and the Lions as a team. Jonathan Stewart rushed for 155 yards against the Saints in the last meeting between these two teams, when the Panthers averaged 5 yards per carry - before contact with a Saints defender - on their way to 271 yards on the ground.
A similar effort by the Saints defense Sunday, and it might be appropriate to paraphrase the words of the late Yogi Berra, who said of the challenges of playing left-field in the encroaching shadows of Yankee Stadium, "it gets dark early out there."
The season for the Saints will get dark early in the impending gloom of the NFC South basement with another defeat.