The Saints are 5-3 after Sunday’s big win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in what was more of a defensive struggle than an offensive battle. Fortunately for Saints fans it was our defense that outplayed the perennial “best defense in the NFL” on Halloween night.
Let’s face it, the Saints defense hasn’t been an elite unit since the days of the dome patrol. It has been good at times but never great.
Famed defensive coordinator Gregg Williams took over after the firing of Gary Gibbs prior to the 2009 season and turned the unit into one of the best in the league at creating turnovers, a big reason for the teams success and eventual Super Bowl title.
There was still work to be done however as the Saints defense statiscally was ranked relatively high in some categories including pass and rush yards allowed. Also there were problems stopping opposing offenses on third down.
You can claim however that statistics don’t mean a thing and because the Saints offense was able to put up so many points so quickly teams were forced to play catch up by pushing the ball down field thus skewing the stats — tell that to Gregg Williams.
Never one to rest on his laurel’s Williams vowed to make the Saints defensive faster, stronger and more aggressive in 2010 and so far they have been just that ranking as third best unit in football half-way through the season.
The defense over the last five games has given up on average only 242.2 yards per game rarely allowing teams to find the end zone. While the turnovers are not as frequent as they were last year free safety Darren Sharper is back in the lineup and should provide a huge boost to an injury plagued secondary.
Injuries have been a huge problem thus far impacting primarily three positions — linebacker, corner and running back — but the Saints are expected to return most every injured player as soon as this week when they face the Carolina Panthers.
Corner Tracy Porter was a game time decision against the Steelers but the team opted to give him one more week while recovering from minor knee surgery after a slight tear to his MCL during week four’s win over Panthers.
Jabari Greer is also close to his return after recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered in week six’s win over the Buccaneers.
Both have returned to full practice with the team but there is a chance the Saints will air on the side of caution and keep them out until week eleven after the teams bye.
Running back’s Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas status is a little more clouded. Bush broke his fibula in week 2 and was cleared to practice with the team last week.
However once he hit the filed it was quickly apparent that he was not ready for game action experiencing pain and issues cutting it up field, crucial skills needed for Bush to be successful.
His status for Sunday’s game in questionable at this point and although there is chance he may play likely he will be held out through the teams week 10 bye.
Thomas injured his ankle against the Falcons, which was originally reported as minor, and has since missed the last six games while recovering from the mysterious injury.
Head coach Sean Payton is notorious for releasing mis-information on a players health to keep opposing teams guessing on who will and won’t play come game day and in Thomas’ situation we may be seeing just that when it comes to his status.
Rumors have swirled however that Payton is irritated with Thomas’ injury given his extended recovery time and that he has fallen out of favor altogether. If the rumor has any real relevance has yet to be seen but none the less Thomas remains questionable this week.
The Steelers have a punishing defense and while several players surely have bumps and bruises the Saints exited the game relatively healthy with exception to rookies Chris Ivory and Patrick Robinson.
Robinson tweaked his ankle during the Saints first defensive series early in the first quarter and did not return to the game. The injury did not appear to be serious and although no further updates have been given by the team he should be ready to play by Sunday.
Ivory, the Saints top rusher in the absence of Bush and Thomas, suffered a mild concussion mid-way through the game and did not return. He too is expected to be ready to go come game day which is great news considering Bush and Thomas will likely be held out.
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