Ever since the Drew Brees era began in 2006, the New Orleans Saints have been all about their explosive and high-octane offense. But in 2013, while the offense continues to be one of the best passing offenses in the league, the storyline this year has been all about the defense and how the improvements made could bring the Saints back to Lombardi glory.
In 2012, the Saints set the kind of record that no team wants to set as their defense gave up the most yards ever in a single season in the NFL. This historically bad defense was just absolutely atrocious and there really was not one redeeming aspect. Although a bad defense was nothing Saints’ fans weren’t accustomed to, 2012 probably left fans wanting to put those bags back over their heads.
The worst part about the New Orleans defense was its inability to stop the big play, something that did not go unnoticed by head coach Sean Payton. Unfortunately though, Payton was powerless to do anything about it at the time because he was serving a one-year suspension for the bounty scandal that involved that very defense. But as soon as Payton was back, he knew exactly what needed to be done and as a head coach should, didn’t hesitate to improve his team.
Payton fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and announced that New Orleans would be switching to a 3-4 defense. Who better to coach a 3-4 defense than the man who did so successfully with the Dallas Cowboys, Rob Ryan?
Ryan was hired to revamp this defense and to institute the 3-4. At first there were critics of if New Orleans even had the personnel to run the 3-4 but after three games this season, I think it is obvious, that whatever adjustments this defense has made under Ryan clearly are working.
In Week 1, New Orleans put up a huge goal line stand to stop the Atlanta Falcons and favorites to win the NFC South, in the waning minutes of the game. They held the high-powered Atlanta offense to just 17 points that game. In Week 2, New Orleans held the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense to under 300 total yards and held Josh Freeman, who last year burned them for 420 passing yards in a single game, to just 125. Then in Week 3, against an inferior Arizona Cardinals team, the Saints took care of business, allowing the offense under 250 yards and intercepting Carson Palmer twice.
To put this into perspective, even in a complete shutout last season of the Buccaneers, this defense never once gave up less than 300 total yards in a game. This year, they’ve already done it twice.
As a result, this defense has New Orleans right back in the Super Bowl conversation. Because with the incredible offense behind Brees and Jimmy Graham, all this team has needed in recent years was a defense. In 2013, it looks like they finally have it.