METAIRIE, La. (AP) -When coach Sean Payton gave an unflattering review of the Saints' run-blocking, offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb wasn't about to argue.
``We don't mind shouldering the burden of the criticism,'' Stinchcomb said after practice on Thursday. ``It's a challenge to us as an offensive line.''
What may not be fair, Stinchcomb said, is to base the criticism solely on the Saints' total of yards rushing.
The Saints rushed for only 55 yards in a 29-24 loss at Washington last Sunday. Through two games, the Saints have 156 as a team, fewer than 12 NFL running backs' individual totals.
s in New Orleans.
``The most important thing is to move the ball based on how you think you can move it,'' Payton said. ``If you have a quarterback that you feel confident in and the best way is throwing it, then you take that approach, but each week that might shift or change.''
For the Saints, the big issue is not how many times they run, but whether they can execute when they do, especially on crucial third-and-short plays. One such failure stood out at Washington, when Pierre Thomas was stopped on third-and-1 at the New Orleans 37 with 4:34 left and the Saints clinging to a 24-22 lead.
``It looks like an area we need to improve on,'' Brees said. ``Certainly, when you're talking about closing out games, when everybody in the stadium knows you're going to run the football, our attitude is we should be able to get a yard.''
New Orleans needed a sustained, clock-killing drive. Instead, the Saints quickly punted to the Redskins, who took the lead on a 67-yard completion to Santana Moss one play later.
n running plays.
``When you're rushing the ball well, generally you're getting off on the line of scrimmage and you're playing with an attitude,'' Payton said. ``We got beat there a number of times ... and really made it difficult for the backs to have any kind of consistency, so we have to get that corrected.''
Stinchcomb said the offensive line has taken a hard look at itself this week, with another tough game coming up Sunday at Denver against a team that has run the ball well for years.
``In the run game, you have to be physical,'' Stinchcomb said. ``Sometimes it's not technical but it's about getting nasty and playing at a more aggressive level. Right now, we're talking about speed. We're talking about power.''
But only when called for.
The Saints like the way Brees distributes the ball. As often as possible, they want him to decide whether to throw downfield or dump the ball off to a running back. So New Orleans isn't about to set goals for rushing yardage.
``We can't set numbers,'' Stinchcomb said. ``Not in this offense, not when you don't know whether you're going to run the ball 15 times or 30 times.
down the field, that's what our offensive goals are.''

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