Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

December 14, 2018 at 5:05 pm.

Saints trying to get offense rolling again

The New Orleans Saints defense hopes to maintain the pace at which it has been limiting opponents’ scoring.

The offense would like to get back to the scoring pace it was setting until the last two games.

New Orleans has not allowed more than 17 points in any of its last five games and it has allowed an average of just 13 points in that span.

But the offense has had its least productive two-game stretch of the season in a 13-10 loss at Dallas on Nov. 29 and a 28-14 victory at Tampa Bay last Sunday.

Before that, New Orleans had scored at least 30 points in five consecutive games.

“We had a rough stretch there,” running back Mark Ingram II said. “Football is not a perfect game. Everything is not going to be perfect. Everything’s not going to be scripted exactly how you want to be.

“So, our defense and our special teams have been able to keep us in games and give us a chance to win vs. Dallas. And it gave us a chance to be able to come back and go on our run in the second half right there to build a comeback and win the (Tampa Bay) game on the road.”

The Saints trailed the Buccaneers 14-3 at halftime, but outscored them 25-0 in the second half.

“It was important for us to get our mojo going,” Ingram said.

The Saints will try to build on that success when they visit Carolina on Monday night.

“We were in a funk and we got back right,” running back Alvin Kamara said. “You’ve just got to find it again. You get off beat and then you find the beat again.

“We did taper off a little bit and had a couple of struggles. It felt good to get back on track and we expect to do the same thing this week and build off that.”

The Saints have been leading the NFL in run defense for most of the season and in recent weeks their pass rush has improved significantly. Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan has 12 sacks, one short of the career-high he set last season. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins has eight sacks, by far the most he has had in his three-year career.

Linebacker Demario Davis, who joined the team as a free agent in the offseason and has become the leading tackler, said Jordan has “exceeded my expectations.”

“I knew he was one of the top pass rushers in the league,” Davis said, “but to see firsthand the impact he has on games it’s phenomenal.”

Davis has been similarly impressed by Rankins, a former No. 1 draft choice.

“He’s as good as they come,” Davis said. “Great in the run game, unblockable in the pass game. If they try to leave him one-on-one, he’s going to get to the quarterback. He’s a beast. All those guys up front are playing remarkable right now. I think our defensive line is what’s anchoring our defense right now.”

New Orleans has clinched the NFC South title, but it can’t lose any ground to the Rams in the final three weeks if it’s going to hold on to the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

“Even though we’ve clinched the South these next three games are very important for us as far as where we want to be heading into the playoffs,” linebacker A.J. Klein said.

SERIES HISTORY: 47th regular-season meeting. Panthers lead series, 24-22, including a 12-11 mark in Charlotte. But the Saints have won the last three meetings, all of which came last season. New Orleans prevailed, 34-13, in Charlotte in the first meeting, then 31-21 in the regular-season meeting in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and again 31-26 in a wild-card playoff game in New Orleans, the only post-season meeting between the long-time NFC South rivals.