The nuts and bolts
WHEN: 3:05 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
RADIO: WWL-AM, 870; WWL-FM, 105.3; KMDL-FM, 97.3; WDGL-FM, 98.1
RECORDS: New Orleans 5-9, Jacksonville 5-9
COACHES: Saints’ Sean Payton, 10th season (85-57); Jaguars’ Gus Bradley, 3rd (12-34)
LAST WEEK: Jacksonville fought back from a 17-3 deficit at halftime with two touchdowns to open the third quarter, but the Jaguars were unable to come through in the clutch against an Atlanta team that had lost six straight, and the Falcons came away with a 23-17 victory. Remarkably, Jacksonville is still alive in the AFC South race.
OFFENSE: The Jaguars appear to have discovered the rarest of NFL commodities: a bona fide young QB. Blake Bortles has blossomed into a weapon, completing 57.7 percent of his passes for 3,821 yards, 31 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. A pocket passer most of the time, he can stretch the defense with his legs: He has 305 rushing yards.
Bortles’ emergence has been boosted by the young duo of WRs Allen Robinson (69 catches, 1,141 yards, 13 TDs) and Allen Hurns (53/907/8), both of whom have been big-play machines.
For the Saints, the real threat may be TE Julius Thomas, who has 42 catches for 431 yards and five scores despite missing the first three games with injury.
The key to slowing Bortles is to hit him early and often: Jacksonville has given up 41 sacks.
Jacksonville enters the week with some uncertainty at running back. Rookie T.J. Yeldon sat out last week’s loss with an MCL sprain, and if he can’t go, the Jaguars will turn to Denard Robinson, who brings explosive capabilities to the table.
DEFENSE: Jacksonville has been largely middle-of-the-road. Led by DE Jared Odrick, Jacksonville is stout up the middle, but the Jaguars struggle to rush the passer. Odrick, who has five sacks, leads the team, and the combo of DEs Andre Branch and Chris Clemons has produced just seven sacks. Jacksonville does present some problems with the blitz: CB Aaron Colvin is second on the team with four sacks.
Under Bradley, a former Seahawks defensive coordinator, Jacksonville plays a physical style with Colvin and Davon House at CB. House has started to come into his own with three interceptions, but there have been injuries at nickel, where undrafted rookie Nick Marshall started against Atlanta.
The Jaguars have talented players at inside linebacker. MLB Paul Posluszny has 114 tackles and three interceptions, and WLB Telvin Smith has a team-high 128 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception.
At safety, Josh Evans and Jonathan Cyprien are merely average, nothing spectacular.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Jason Myers has missed just three kicks, and P Bryan Anger is a steady veteran. In the return game, rookie Rashad Greene is a dangerous punt returner, averaging 19.0 yards per return on 13 chances, with a 73-yard touchdown thrown in for good measure.
Joel A. Erickson