The biggest takeaway for the New Orleans Saints since Drew Brees’ injury is that the defense is much better than anyone expected it to be.
The New Orleans Saints appeared to have a massive mountain to climb when Drew Brees suffered a torn ligament against the Los Angeles Rams. Brees is the heart and soul of the Saints and even just six weeks without him could have derailed the season.
However, Teddy Bridgewater has done his part to be good enough to lead the Saints to victory with the biggest positive takeaway being the defense. Heading into the year, the Saints’ defense looked to be average at best. Now, it looks like one of the best in the NFL.
This is a defense that held the Dallas Cowboys to 10 points and the Jacksonville Jaguars to six points while the offense only scored 12 and 13, respectively. The Saints rank 11th in points allowed per game and 10th in yards allowed per game.
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To be fair, the Saints have let up some meaningless scores at the end of the game that sways these numbers. Both Seattle and Tampa Bay scored near the end of the game without affecting the outcome of the game.
If you take those 13 points off the board, the New Orleans Saints would rank eighth in points allowed per game.
While the Saints’ defense has looked good and has been better than anticipated thus far this season, I think we should pump the breaks on thinking that they are one of the best in the league. Personally, they have not done enough to fully prove that they are well above the league average, which is the label they are now getting.
A big component of the Saints’ defensive success in recent weeks is the quarterbacks they have been facing. Garnder Minshew (who is still a rookie backup) struggled last week and Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott are known for their turnovers and mediocre play against good teams.
It is not like they shut down Aaron Rodgers in those games.
To be fair, the team did defeat the Seattle Seahawks and a lot of Russell Wilson‘s 406 passing yards came in the late stages of the game. However, when the Seahawks were running a high-tempo offense, they drove down the field like a hot knife through butter.
Yes, the defensive gameplan was different because of the situation, but the Saints did not beat Russell Wilson in that game. Wilson did great and if it were not for a punt return touchdown and fumble recovery touchdown then the Saints probably would have lost this game.
But instead, they won and the defense gets the narrative. They were good, but they did not look like an elite defense.
Although they lost in Week 2, they got to face Jared Goff, who too has been exposed this year as not being able to be a quarterback that can take over games and win them.
And finally, the Saints came up against DeShaun Watson in Week 1 and he had a massive game. Watson went 20-30 with 268 passing yards and had 40 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. He led the Texans down the field in three plays in what, at the time, looked to be the game-winning touchdown.
Yes, the Saints were without Sheldon Rankins in that game and Rankins does make a difference on the defensive line, but that one player does not turn the game from a 30-point game to a 10-point game.
This is not the New Orleans Saints’ fault either, you have to play who you play. And this trend continues as they take on the Chicago Bears this week and a rookie in Kyler Murray next week.
This does not mean they are bad and they are still better than we thought heading into the year. However, the New Orleans Saints defense still has more to prove before we call it elite.