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elaine95 Oct 11, 02:03AM
Drew Brees isn't worried about the Saints' conspicuously heavy reliance on the passing game during a season-opening loss.

On one hand Adidas Jamie Benn Jersey , the result begs the question of how much the four-game suspension of running back Mark Ingram is affecting New Orleans' ability to gain advantages in time of possession from running the ball. At the same time, one game does not make a trend and it's hard to be overly critical of an approach that produced 475 yards and 40 points.

If not for a couple of lost fumbles 鈥?including one on a running play that was returned for a Tampa Bay touchdown 鈥?the Saints might have pulled out their high-scoring affair with the Bucs instead of losing by eight .

Brees explained that two factors led to the Saints passing 45 times and running only 13. One was that they liked their matchups in the passing game. They also fell behind by multiple scores in the second half, which all but forces the team playing catch-up to throw more.

"That's just kind of the way that game went," Brees said after practice on Wednesday. "The next thing I'd say is, 'Were we efficient?' And I'd say we were. So there's going to be games where it's lopsided in one way or the other.

"There are going to be games where we're probably running the ball more than passing it," Brees continued. "And I'll ask the same question: 'Are we efficient?' So, if we are, if we're moving the ball, if we're scoring points, then I'd say obviously that was the right plan."

Last season, with Ingram and fellow running back Alvin Kamara operating as a Pro Bowl tandem, the Saints ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing with 129 yards per game. When their defense played well, they were able to build leads and then control the clock. That recipe helped produce an 11-win regular season and one playoff victory before they fell in the divisional round at Minnesota on the last play of the game.

While New Orleans had only 43 yards rushing last Sunday, a bright spot was the effectiveness of two running plays from within 5 yards of the end zone. Kamara scored both times. He also ran for a 2-point conversion, showing that the Saints' offensive line could get the push it needed in those situations.

Still, even Kamara had most of his production 鈥?112 yards 鈥?as a receiver. Meanwhile, Michael Thomas set a franchise single-game record with 16 receptions for 180 yards and a score.

When asked if playing from behind was the main reason for the Saints' lack of balance on offense, coach Sean Payton said, "Not just that. We also wanted to throw it when we began to see how we were getting defended."

Against Cleveland, Payton added, "We'll look closely at the best way we think we have to move the football in this game and understand the type of defense we're playing is quite a bit different than what we just saw."

While the Buccaneers did not generate a relentless pass rush on Brees, who was sacked only once, the Browns come in with a blitz-heavy scheme and defensive end Myles Garrett. Garrett is an emerging star who had two sacks against Pittsburgh in Week 1 and who has at least one sack in each of his past three games.

Two other factors on the Saints' injury report are worth watching this week as they pertain to pass-protection against Garrett and the receiving game. Saints left tackle Terron Armstead (knee) and left guard Andrus Peat (ankle) were listed as limited in practice on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Thomas (illness) and fellow receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (knee) both missed practice. Ginn was among the Saints' top three receivers in Week 1 with five catches for 68 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown.

Browns coach Hugh Jackson said he sees little reason to doubt the Saints' ability to move the ball on the ground.

"A lot of teams are not able to throw the ball as much as they did with the success that they did" against Tampa Bay, Jackson said. "You look up when it's all said and done, and they have 40 points on the board. That's a credit to them Christian Dvorak Jersey , a credit to Drew and the rest of their offense.

"I just think they got behind," Jackson continued. "We've all been in those situations where sometimes the game plan goes out the door; you do what you need to do to try to win the game.

"At the end of the day, I think they're going to still be able to run the football. They have really good runners. They've got blockers. They don't want to be as one-dimensional, but if they are going to be, they do have the right quarterback to do that."

TORONTO — The Cleveland Cavaliers have eliminated the Toronto Raptors from the playoffs two years in a row.

The Raptors have a chance to reverse that trend this year, starting Tuesday night when they host the Cavaliers in Game 1 of their best-of-seven second-round playoff series at the Air Canada Centre.

The Cavaliers won their way into the second round by defeating the Indiana Pacers in seven games with LeBron James producing 45 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while playing 43 minutes in the decisive game Sunday.

“I’m burnt right now,” James said after the game. “I’m not thinking about Toronto right now until tomorrow, I’m ready to go home. Can we? I’m tired. I want to go home.”

James averaged more than 41 minutes per game in the series, averaging 34.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists.

The Raptors will be the more rested team, having wrapped up their first-round series against the Washington Wizards in six games on Friday.

When Raptors coach Dwane Casey was asked what his team could learn from the way the Pacers played the Cavaliers, he said: “Playing hard. They played their behinds off, put themselves in position to win.”

The Cavaliers defeated the Raptors in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016 before going on to win their first NBA championship.

Cleveland swept Toronto in four games in their second-round series last year.

That series loss led the Raptors to change their approach by spreading the attack around more instead of relying so much on their All-Stat guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. They also have developed a potent bench led by guard Fred VanVleet, who missed most of the series against the Wizards with a sore shoulder but played 19 minutes in Game 6.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, still depend so much on James, who became the NBA’s career playoff leader in steals and minutes played during the first round. He became the points leader in 2017.

James ranks first in points (6,404), first in minutes played (9,415), first in steals (399), third in assists (with 1,543), sixth in games played (224), seventh in rebounds (1,993) and 19th in blocks (216).

The Pacers left Bojan Bogdanovic to cover James for much of the series without help and Casey thought it was a good move.

“I thought it was good for Indiana because it took them to seven games Josh Allen Jersey Elite ,” Casey said. “You are not going to take away everything from anybody whether it’s Cleveland or Boston or Philadelphia. You are going to give up something and you have to decide what that is on that particular play or that particular night that you are trying to take away.

“That is what the chess match is in a playoff series. What you are trying to take away and what you are going to digest and live with?”

James did get some help in Game 7 against Indiana from Toronto-native Tristan Thompson, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“We started the game with a unit that we knew,” James said Sunday. “All five of us, we knew what we could get out of each other. We’ve been in situations before, we’ve played in big games before, so that’s a comfort to start the game.”

“I just think with it being Game 7, just go with the guys that have been here and been through it all,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue. “They know what it takes.”

“I’ve been telling (Thompson) all series long to just wait his turn until his name is called, and when it’s called, be that spark,” said Cavaliers guard George Hill, who had a strong fourth quarter. “From the jump, he was that spark that we needed, and I think he just had a phenomenal game — probably the best I’ve seen him play in a while.”

James praised Hill and Thompson. “Half a game ball should go to Tristan and half to G Hill,” he said.

The Raptors do not believe James will be tired when Game 1 comes around.

“You believe he’s tired? I don’t believe it,” Casey said Monday. “I’ll believe it when I see him sitting over on the bench, and I haven’t seen that very much because he’s playing at such a high level. It’s amazing the type of condition he’s in. We’re not banking on that.”

“I don’t believe it, I bet he’ll be ready to go (Tuesday),” Lowry said.

The Raptors do intend to make James work hard.

“He’s on a mission,” Casey said. “But there’s certain things we want to do to make him expend some more energy and there’s a variety of ways we can do that. … I don’t want to sit up here and give away our game plan, what we want to do, how we want to do it, what we want to take away, what we want to give them, that wouldn’t be prudent on my part.”