This season has been a dream season of sorts for the New Orleans Saints, the city, and its fans.
The offensive explosion.
The reinvention of the defense that averages three turnovers per game.
The huge comeback win against the Miami Dolphins.
The ensuing late-night reception consisting of thousands at the airport.
The 7-0 record.
All of this, combined with the easiest remaining schedule in the league, has people locally and nationally whispering about the possibility of perfection.
But if the Saints don't reverse a few recent trends, then New Orleans may see its unblemished record become scarred this weekend against the Carolina Panthers.
1) The rushing defense must improve.
The Saints have really struggled to stop the run over the same four-game stretch. While they rank 11th in rushing defense, that stat may be a little deceiving.
In three of the past four games, teams have rushed for over 130 yards against the Saints. The defense allowed nearly five yards per carry to the Jets and over six and a half yards per carry to the Falcons.
Four rushing touchdowns and a 68-yard burst were allowed to Ricky Williams and the Falcons.
The Giants had to abandon the run throughout most of the second half as they were down three scores early in the game but still managed 84 yards on 19 carries.
New Orleans will face DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, one of the best running back tandems in the league, on Sunday.
While Williams and Stewart started the season slowly, they have recaptured their 2008 form. Together, they have 138 carries, 700 yards, and seven touchdowns over the past four games.
Both running backs have been instrumental in Carolina's resurgence from an 0-3 start, and the Saints can be sure to see a heavy dose of the Panthers' rushing attack in the Superdome.
Hopefully, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis and linebacker Scott Fujita will return soon.
2) The recent turnover rate has been alarming.
Through the first five games, New Orleans turned the ball over just five times. Drew Brees had thrown just two interceptions.
Over the past two games, the Saints have eight turnovers with Brees being responsible for six of them.
Fortunately, the Saints offense (and defense) scores enough points to overcome turnovers.
New Orleans isn't likely to win playoff games by turning the ball over three or four times a game.
3) Drew Brees has been getting hit at an alarming rate.
The offensive line did an excellent job protecting its quarterback through the first five games when Brees was hit a grand total of 10 times or once every 16.3 pass plays.
In the past two games alone, Brees has been hit 10 times or once every 7.8 pass plays.
The rise in quarterback hits plays a huge factor in the increase in turnovers.
The New Orleans Saints may have a perfect record, but they've got some work to do before they have the perfect season.
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