Halftime observations from New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS – What looked like was going to be an easy game for the New Orleans Saints suddenly is looking a lot more difficult.

The Saints have a 10-7 lead at halftime in a game that they’ve dominated statistically. But they’ve allowed Carolina to stay in the game by losing a couple of fumbles. A few other halftime observations.

  • New Orleans defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis was banged up much of his first two seasons. He’s been healthy so far this season and is emerging as a force in the middle.

  • Ellis might be one reason why Carolina’s running game hasn’t done a lot. The Panthers have 35 yards on 10 rushes. Jonathan Stewart, who is supposed to be one half of Carolina’s dynamic backfield, has three carries for three yards, although he did catch a 55-yard pass from Jimmy Clausen.

  • Speaking of quiet Carolina players, Steve Smith has one catch for six yards. He’s been targeted only twice. Smith has stayed relatively quiet this season. But, given his mercurial past, you have to wonder if an emotional outburst could be on the way if he doesn’t start getting the ball more often.

  • Memo to New Orleans coach Sean Payton: You’ve proved the point that you can run the ball with backup running backs. But you seem a little too intent on this one. It’s nice that Chris Ivory and Ladell Betts have given you some decent carries. But Ivory doesn’t look like a guy who hangs onto the ball too well. If you give him too many carries, you’re pushing your luck. You’ve got Drew Brees and a great group of receivers. Stick with what you do best.