Saints WR trio of Thomas, Olave, Shaheed making a difference in crunch time

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NEW ORLEANS, La. -- The New Orleans Saints wide receivers have swagger.

They're confident in their abilities to make contested catches. They know they can be counted on to make the plays when it counts. And just two weeks into the season, they're not above stirring things up.

Just ask Michael Thomas, who had seven catches for 55 yards in the Saints' 20-17 win against the Carolina Panthers on "Monday Night Football".

Thomas, who spent most of the last three seasons recovering from injuries, made several physical receptions over the middle and an athletic catch down the sideline.

Saints coach Dennis Allen later called Thomas' performance "outstanding."

"Just his competitiveness, the way that he ran his routes, the way that he caught the ball," Allen said. "I thought he was a major factor in the game, his attitude on the sidelines ... his positivity, it was awesome to see."

It wasn't a surprise that Thomas was feeling pretty good after proving he's still more than capable of making contested catches and big plays.

"I'm here to help this offense. I get a rush from it," Thomas said. "That's what I'm here to do. Make the big plays, then go talk s--- to [Allen] and get him turned up, so maybe he'll call something crazy or better for the defense. I just like bringing a lot of energy and letting these guys know, as long as we move the ball down this field, we're always in this game."

Allen laughed when asked if Thomas' assessment was accurate.

"Well, listen. He was certainly jacked up for the game and excited about the game," Allen said. "Yeah, he had a few things to say to me, which was awesome. I love it. That's the type of team that we want to be, a team that plays with confidence, plays with a swagger, and I think that's what you've seen out of our guys."

That confidence doesn't come from looking at the statistics, which aren't particularly impressive yet. The Saints are 25th in scoring offense, have yet to score a first-half touchdown and have just one passing touchdown.

But Saints trio of Thomas, Rashid Shaheed and Chris Olave has proven there's reason to believe they can always make the plays in crunch time. That, combined with the play of the defense --- which is fourth in yards allowed (262) and tied for fifth in points allowed (32) -- has given the Saints (2-0) reason to feel good.

"I think we have a confident football team," Allen said. "Confidence is born from demonstrated ability. We've had two really tough games, and we've been able to come out on the good side of both of them. Certainly we feel like we've playing good enough football to win, and yet, at the same time, we know there's a lot of things we can do better."

The combination of Olave (198 yards), Shaheed (152) and Thomas (116) have amassed 86.1% of the Saints' 541 receiving yards this season.

Shaheed's 41-yard catch in the fourth quarter sealed the Saints' win against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, and a juggling 42-yard catch by Olave in the third set the Saints up for their first of two touchdowns against the Panthers.

Olave and Shaheed each have two plays of at least 40 yards, after Shaheed added a 45-yard reception in the fourth quarter against the Panthers. Shaheed burned the Titans on a go-route as well, but he said a designed double move got the Panthers defense to bite, allowing him to use his speed to get open.

"I ripped that thing, and he just tracked it down like it was nothing, you know?" quarterback Derek Carr said. "[Shaheed]'s an unbelievable, unbelievable football player. Y'all saw last week -- just the speed, the go route -- today he runs the double move. I've been saying he can run the routes, and he's a good receiver."

On Olave's circus play, Carr found him down the sideline in one-on-one coverage -- where he stretched out one hand, caught the ball and juggled it back into the other.

As the defender ran past him, he got up, and spiked the ball in celebration, with Thomas enthusiastically running up to congratulate him.

"We know our defense is going to hold it down," Olave said. "... We've just got to stay patient, stay patient and wait for the ball to come. When your number is called, you have to make that play. Somebody had to make that play, and I'm glad they threw it to me."

Olave sheepishly admitted later that he might not have been touched down, which could have been a fumble if the ball had not gone out of bounds. He smiled and said he knew he'd get grief about it in team meetings, but that was an easy problem to deal with after a win.

This confidence hasn't just come from a few plays. It's been building for months.

The Saints have touted the potential of their offense all summer, but that transition from training camp to the regular season doesn't always happen as smoothly or quickly as a team wants. Sometimes it doesn't happen at all.

There's never been a doubt from Carr, who said he laughs when his friends and family send him social media posts about one big play or another from his receivers.

"I've always had trust in them," Carr said after the game. "Just because the first half didn't go [our way], that's my fault. But those guys have been making plays ... all camp and in the offseason."

Carr and Allen said they know the offense has a long way to go to reach its potential after several quarters of occasional head-scratching play, but they also know they have three players who have come up big when it counts.

"With Chris and Shaheed ... you're one play away from a game-changing type play on any given play during the game," Allen said. "That's a comforting feeling to have as a coach."

The Saints may have to lean on their pass game for a third straight week against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX), as running back Alvin Kamara has one game left on his suspension and his backup, Jamaal Williams, is expected to miss some time. But Allen did say Tuesday that rookie Kendre Miller could make his debut.