New Orleans had been working on ways

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    NEW ORLEANS (AP)With a playoff berth at stake Quincy Williams II Jersey , the Saints found ways to capitalize on the mere presence of hobbled star receiver Michael Thomas. to exploit the attention opposing defenses pay to the sure-handed, 1,000-yard receiver, so Thomas figured he could still help the team despite his sore hamstring, which had left him officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s 23-13 victory over Atlanta. Thomas had a particular play in mind: a deep pass designed for speedy wide receiver Ted Ginn. ”I had my hamstring issue, but all week I knew that was going to be a key play,” Thomas said. ”That was one of the reasons I played, for situations like that.” The play came to fruition in the last minute of the first half, a few plays after Marshon Lattimore’s unusual interception of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Ginn sprinted behind the Falcons’ cornerback Desmond Trufant and the Atlanta secondary couldn’t recover because safety Ricardo Allen had shaded toward Thomas to help cover him. Brees’ downfield throw hit Ginn in stride and he raced to the end zone for a 54-yard score that widened New Orleans’ lead to 13-0. Now in his second NFL season, Thomas said he’d caught passes running the same rout he ran on Ginn’s touchdown – and out of virtually the same formation – during his three previous games against Atlanta, the most recent about two weeks ago. Coach Sean Payton was hoping to plant a false sense of recognition in defensive backs’ minds, and it worked, Thomas said. ”He thought he saw it, but he really didn’t see it Ryquell Armstead Jersey ,” Thomas said of Allen. ”He bit the cheese.” Thomas was able to run well enough to make a few catches as well – four, in fact, for 66 yards. Some other story lines from the Saints’ victory over the Falcons: SELF DESTRUCTING: While the Falcons can still win a wild-card spot by beating Carolina in Week 17, they’ll have to clean up costly mistakes first . Atlanta committed 10 penalties for 91 yards, went 2 of 13 on third downs, committed two turnovers and twice came away without points from inside the Saints 2-yard line – once on Devonta Freeman’s fumble and once on Freeman’s stuffed fourth-and-goal run. Even Lattimore’s interception came on a pass Marvin Hall could have caught, although it was high. Instead, the tipped ball landed on Lattimore’s backside as he lay face down, and he was able to reach back and grab it. ”I don’t know that it’s lack of poise or whatever, but whatever the reason for the penalties, we’ve got to figure that out,” Ryan said. ”When you come into an environment like this and you’re playing a very good opponent, it’s critical to stay in front of the chains. You can’t make mistakes. We made too many.” DEVELOPING DEFENSE: Payton had high praise for New Orleans’ defense, particularly the younger Gardner Minshew II Jersey , less experience players who took on greater roles because of injuries. The Saints expect big plays from former first-round pick Cameron Jordan and got them with his two sacks. But there were several less-heralded and less-experienced players who came through. Third-year pro Hau’oli Kikaha and second-year cornerback Ken Crawly stopped Freeman’s fourth-down run near the goal line. Kikaha also batted down a pass near the goal line, helping to force a field goal. Third-year defensive tackle Tyeler Davison stripped Freeman. HOME WRECKER: Falcons’ linebacker Deion Jones, who grew up in New Orleans, continues to have uncanny success against his hometown team. The second-year pro out of LSU intercepted Brees for the third time in four career games against New Orleans’ all-time leading QB and former Super Bowl MVP (when Jones was in 10th grade). The first two interceptions were crucial in Falcons wins. His latest, coming off a deflection, involved a little more luck. Still, he returned it 41 yards to the Saints 2 and it might have changed the game if not for Freeman’s ensuing fumble. ”I always want to beat them. It’s like a rival for me,” Jones said of the Saints. ”I’ve got family that’s still kind of Saints fans and I just want to prove them wrong.” BETTER BACKFIELD: Saints rookie running back Alvin Kamara missed most of these teams’ previous meeting Dec. 7 because of a concussion on the opening series. He was back and hoping to tip the balance. Kamara accounted for 90 yards from scrimmage on 12 rushes and seven receptions. ”It felt like revenge,” Kamara said. ”It felt good.” Kamara’s availability lighted the load on Mark Ingram, who broke free in the third quarter for a 26-yard TD . Kamara and Ingram now each have 12 TDs and more than 1,400 yards from scrimmage. — SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-7)New faces: RB Rashaad Penny, OL D.J. Fluker, WR Jaron Brown, WR Brandon Marshall Christian Wilkins Jersey , TE Ed Dickson, TE Will Dissly, DT Tom Johnson, DT Shamar Stephen, LB Barkevious Mingo, LB Shaquem Griffin, DE Rasheem Green, QB Brett Hundley, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., offensive line coach Mike Solari.Key losses: TE Jimmy Graham, WR Paul Richardson, RB Eddie Lacy, DE Michael Bennett Michael Deiter Jersey , DE Cliff Avril, SS Kam Chancellor, CB Richard Sherman.Strengths: Despite changes, still have one of best quarterbacks in NFL. Russell Wilson tied career high with 34 TD passes last season. Offense should rely less on Wilson with recommitment to run game. RBs Chris Carson and Penny are major upgrade. Defense will be massively different but still have two of top LBs in Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.Weaknesses: Defense has major questions after departures of Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor. Holdout of safety Earl Thomas clouded entire preseason. Wagner and Wright provide stability, though Wright may miss start of season after knee surgery. Big issue will be pass rush outside of Frank Clark. Most holes on defense since 2011, last time Seattle finished with below .500 record.Fantasy Players To Watch: RB Chris Carson. Seattle committed to run under new OC Schottenheimer and with Penny suffering broken finger in preseason, Carson will get bulk of work early. He could be big value selection later in drafts.Vegas Says: Super Bowl 60-1. Over/under wins 7.5.Expectations: Seahawks continue to say roster turnover is part of reset — latest move was acquiring backup to Wilson from Green Bay in Brett Hundley — but looks more and more like rebuild. This does not look to be team capable of winning NFC West. Wilson and Wagner give Seattle hope of being competitive in every game, but amount of questions give pause. If new offensive focus clicks and defensive losses aren’t as significant, Seattle could contend for wild-card spot. If concerns about roster prove accurate, could be longest, least successful season of Pete Carroll’s tenure.

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