In their Week 6 matchup against the New England Patriots, the New Orleans Saints‘ defense played a fairly solid game. Despite the eventual loss, the Saints’ defense ended up limiting Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to 25-of-43 passing and 269 yards passing and one touchdown. The defense was also able to sack Brady a total of five times for a loss of 34 yards and held New England without a touchdown for eight-straight possessions starting midway through the second quarter.
All in all, not a bad effort from a defense that got little-to-no help from the offense for most of the game. The Saints’ defense did, however, give up some big rushing yards and two touchdowns to Stevan Ridley. Brandon Bolden was also able to break away for a 12-yard gain, and all told, New Orleans gave up 141 yards on the ground, much more than they had prior to this game.
Penalties also hurt. Safety Malcolm Jenkins was flagged for hitting defenseless receiver Kenbrell Thompkins in the third quarter which resulted in a 15-yard penalty, extending the Patriots’ drive which ended up with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal, putting New England up 20-17. Saints’ cornerback Keenan Lewis was also flagged for pass interference in the end zone on third down in the second quarter, giving the Patriots a fresh set of downs. This led to a short touchdown run by Ridley.
Overall, however, I thought that New Orleans’ defense played a fairly solid game, and I was pleased to see Brady sacked five times. That the Saints lost on a last-second touchdown pass from Brady to Thompkins is not indicative of how they played the rest of the game. Had the offense stepped up and played better football, we likely would be looking a a 6-0 Saints team.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has his defensive players pumped, excited and playing well. They believe in him and believe in his system, and the younger guys have really stepped up, so far. Far removed from the 7,042 total yards the unit gave up last year, Ryan’s defense is currently No. 12 in terms of total yards per game, giving up 338 per game. They also have a +5 takeaway:giveaway ratio, having taken away 12 times to the offense’s seven giveaways.
Last week’s loss was just a growing pain. Most good teams will eventually lose a game or two or three, and it’s not like it was a blowout. New Orleans very well could have won that game in the closing minutes, but it did not happen that way. While the loss is disappointing, the Saints have yet to play their best football and Ryan will take the loss and the bye week to reflect, regroup and refocus.