Gail Burton / Associated Press

Baltimore's Ray Rice dashes for a touchdown as Raiders defenders arrive late during the Ravens' 55-20 win last week. Today, Drew Brees and his prolific New Orleans offense visit Oakland.

Saints' Vitt wary of Raiders in wake of Ravens drubbing

Published: Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012 - 8:35 am

OAKLAND – Interim head coach Joe Vitt has taken statistics to the extreme to prove why his New Orleans Saints will have their hands full today against the Raiders at O.co Coliseum.

The fact that the Raiders gave up 55 points to the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday actually makes them more dangerous, and Vitt has the numbers to back it up.

"Since 2005, when someone allows 50 or more to be scored on them, and they come back home the next week and play, that team is 5-1," Vitt said by conference call with Bay Area media.

There's more.

According to Vitt's calculations, those teams scored an average of 26 points, gave up 20, rushed for 146 yards and gave up fewer than 300 yards of total offense to their opponent.

"Joe's got a stat for everything," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "I hope he's right."

The Saints, 4-5 after an 0-4 start, are coming off a 31-27 win over previously unbeaten Atlanta and on the verge of re-entering the NFC playoff picture amid the "Bountygate" scandal that cost them head coach Sean Payton for the season and Vitt for the first seven weeks under suspension.

Based on Vitt's statistical model, it's difficult to envision the Raiders rushing the ball for 146 yards with Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson out of action, or holding Drew Brees and the NFL's most explosive passing team to fewer than 300 yards of total offense.

The Raiders (3-6) will again have Marcel Reece as the lead running back. He'll be backed up by Jeremy Stewart, who was promoted from the practice squad.

Chances are they'll depend on quarterback Carson Palmer keeping pace with Brees, as both teams have struggled mightily on the defensive side of the ball.

In their last two games against the Bucs (42-32) and Ravens (55-20), the Raiders have given up 97 points, 934 yards and 45 first downs.

Brees is 6-0 against the Raiders, having never thrown an interception, and leads the NFL with 2,847 yards and 25 touchdown passes, leading to a candid assessment from defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.

"Man, if Baltimore can put up 55, you don't even want to see what New Orleans can do," Kelly said.

With strong safety Tyvon Branch a game-time decision and defensive tackle Richard Seymour out because of a hamstring strain, matchup problems are everywhere, and Brees is in the class of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers at exploiting mismatches.

Tight end Jimmy Graham, 6 foot 7, 265 pounds, is coming off a Pro Bowl season and has 45 receptions for 533 yards and seven touchdowns. A former basketball player at Miami, Graham was a teammate of Raiders reserve tight end Richard Gordon.

"We would always ask him to play football," Gordon said. "He wouldn't ever come out. Once he did, he was really good."

Palmer understands that keeping up with Brees will be paramount but at the same time doesn't want the pressure to score to take him out of his game.

"I don't let myself go into a game thinking, 'We have to score on this drive,' " Palmer said. "You get yourself in trouble and your team in trouble doing that. But I understand what we're up against. I understand that we have to keep up with these guys."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Jerry McDonald



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