With two games in the records books for the 2013 NFL season, the New Orleans Saints‘ defense has shown some remarkable progress thus far. This is all relative to the dismal performance from last season in which the Saints, without head coach Sean Payton and led by then defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, gave up a record breaking 7,042 total yards.
New Orleans’ defense is currently tied with the New England Patriots‘ for fourth place in points allowed, having only allowed 31 total points, 17 against the Atlanta Falcons and 14 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Saints also rank No. 8 in passing yards allowed, having given up only 392 yards in two games for a total of 196 yards per game and 11th in total yards per game allowed with 640 total yards; not too shabby for a team that had such a poor defensive outing just a season ago.
What’s more is that in both games that New Orleans has played thus far, the defense has come up big when it counted. The goal line stand in the fourth quarter against Atlanta that resulted in an interception to seal the game was refreshing to see. Equally impressive was the defensive effort displayed by the Saints in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter against Tampa Bay. With only one timeout left and down 14-13, Tampa Bay was unable to get a first down in Saints territory and was forced to kick a field goal.
The Buccaneer’s Rian Lindell ultimately missed the 47-yard field goal attempt, and New Orleans’ defense came through to give Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense a chance to drive down field and go up on Tampa Bay, which they ultimately did.
This is really a breath of fresh air for Saints fans, and is a nice compliment to an offense that is getting off to a unusual start, having only scored 39 points in their first two games. In years past, it wasn’t uncommon for New Orleans to put up 39 or more points in a single game, so a defense that can help out and keep games close is certainly a plus.
This rejuvenation of sorts can likely be attributed to the return of Payton and new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who seems to be bringing some of the excitement and swagger back to a defensive unit that so badly needed it.
Next up for the Saints is a non-NFC South opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, who have also put up respectable numbers on both sides of the ball. Ryan and his defense will get to test their mettle against quarterback Carson Palmer and future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald at home. Another positive defensive effort in Week 3 and the league, opponents, coaching staffs and fans will have no choice but to take notice and consider New Orleans’ defense a serious threat.