The New Orleans Saints were one of the NFC’s most dominate teams in 2011, finishing with a 13-3 overall record and the number three seed entering the playoffs — a whisper behind the number two seeded San Francisco 49ers.
It was a season marked by offensive fireworks, the likes of which had never been seen before in the NFL.
Quarterback Drew Brees finally broke Dan Marino’s mark for passing yards with 5,476, and the entire offense eclipsed the Rams “Greatest Show on Turf” and their 2000 record for total offensive yards from scrimmage with 7,473.6.
But the teams Achilles Heel continued to be it’s defense — one that ranked 24th in the league in total defense and 30th against the pass — although improvement was made in run defense with a 12th overall ranking thanks to Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers.
While the Saints fared better in the playoffs this year than last, beating the Detroit Lions at home in the Superdome, they were still bounced from the tournament after a divisional round loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
It was a game the Saints could have won, and after battling back from five turnovers and a deficit as large as 17 points, New Orleans held the lead with 1:36 remaining needing only to prevent the 49ers from scoring.
However the defense failed — highlighted by two monster catches by tight end Vernon Davis — that included the game winning score.
The Saints defense had failed in pass coverage, and had given the game away once more in similar fashion to last years loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The loss was tough, for fans, and for players.
Of course it was made even tougher when the New York Giants went on to win Super Bowl XLVI.
Why? Because the Saints dropped 49 points on the Giants in a blowout win over them in week 12 of the regular season.
Now a new defensive coordinator is in town, Steve Spagnuolo, and he has already brought in a new secondary coach in Ken Flajole to help him revamp the Saints struggling pass defense.
Roster evaluations have already begun as the team looks for ways to work inside the NFL’s $120 million dollar cap ceiling for 2012 — and they still need to re-sign quarterback Drew Brees, receiver Marques Colston, and guard Carl Nicks considering that number.
Money will be at premium, and because of this some higher priced talent may have to be released to help satisfy the larger contracts of these key players.