While many of the players who were on the roster last season remained, the biggest change came with new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who came in with his brash, borderline cocky attitude and the 3-4 defense.
On Monday night, the Saints continued their wonderful start to the season and moved to 4-0 as they defeated the Miami Dolphins 38-17 with thanks in large part to the play of the Ryan-coached defense. In the win, the Saints defense shone in the two areas where they most struggled last season: preventing third-down conversions and forcing turnovers.
With the Saints already up 7-0, the Dolphins had their first offensive drive of the game and drove down to the Saints’ nine-yard line. Facing a third and inches, the Dolphins decided to run Daniel Thomas to the left, but the Saints’ defense read the play correctly and defensive end John Jenkins wrapped Thomas up for a two yard loss, forcing the Dolphins to settle for a field goal in a momentum-changing play that they did not see last year.
Coming into the game against the Dolphins, the Saints’ defense had forced six turnovers through the first three games as they have forced two turnovers in each game. Tonight, that trend continued as the Saints’ defense forced three turnovers, which lead to 14 points being scored. The first two turnovers were significant as they swung momentum towards the Saints each time.
While no one will confuse the 2013 Saints defense as being the reincarnation of the 1985 Chicago Bears defense, they are certainly a much better defense than the unit they were last season. It is clear that Ryan has injected the Saints’ defense with an air of confidence that has translated to improve play on the field and because of it, the Saints are 4-0 and looking like one of the best teams in the league four weeks into the season.