Saints winning with defense
The same team that gave up the most yardage in NFL history a year ago has now only given up 31 points in the first two games of the season.
Someone pinch me.
Last season the Saints defense gave up 454 points, the second most in the NFL. Teams were averaging 28 points per game against New Orleans.
We have all taken for granted the fact that the Saints offense would always be an explosive unit and put up huge numbers with Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Lance Moore back in the lineup, but the upper-level play of the defense under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has been impressive.
In training camp, Saints cornerback Jabari Greer told me that the Saints defense was going back to what it did in the past - play aggressive and play fast.
"I am not going to talk about what happened last season personnel wise or scheme wise, but this team has elements that were built on being aggressive. If you make a mistake, you hustle to get to the ball carrier," Greer said. "Defense is about instinct and playing physical. It can’t be a read and react type thing. Rob Ryan knows what is best for the personnel we have and we will be given a lot of different looks, have some options to be interchangeable and also have the personnel to get pressure on the quarterback. It’s what has worked here in the past and (worked) quite well."
The 16-14 victory over the Buccaneers was not pretty, but it again gave this football club that was trashed last season confidence that the opening day win was no fluke.
Besides winning with defense, the win over the Buccaneers also happened on the road. Under Sean Payton, the Saints have posted a 31-18 win/loss mark in enemy territory. Like the play on defense, the 63 percent winning record on the road is simply outstanding.
Now the Saints square off against the Arizona Cardinals.
To a degree the Saints are playing LSU-West. On the Cardinals roster are cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu and middle linebacker Kevin Minter.
The Cardinals are a very good defensive team, but they are still trying to piece together the right parts of the puzzle along the offensive line.
Quarterback Carson Palmer has two outstanding targets in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd to throw to downfield, but it will be interesting to see if the Saints can again generate a steady pass rush to throw Palmer off rhythm.
And just remember the last two times the Saints went 3-0 to start a season.
In 2006, the Saints jumped out to a 3-0 mark and they went to the NFC Championship game.
In 2009, the Saints started 3-0 and ended up winning the Super Bowl.
I am still concerned about the lack of success the Saints have had running the ball, and they are really getting beat up along the defensive line.
But with future All-Pro defensive end Cam Jordan, a very talented Akiem Hicks, the steady play of Curtis Lofton at middle linebacker and a new playmaker in the secondary in Kenny Vaccaro, the Saints are a pretty good defensive team if they can stay healthy.
For the 15th time in his tenure with the Saints, and the 32nd time overall throughout his career, quarterback Drew Brees led his team to a fourth quarter comeback win.
With Brees playing with a really good defense, the Saints are back in the hunt to play in early February in the cold of New York on Super Bowl Sunday.
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