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New Orleans Saints: Face it, defense is average at best

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When considering the defense’s performance in regard to specific opponents, the one word that seems to sum up this year’s defense is consistency—they seem to always play at the same level, regardless of who they’re playing — with the obvious exception of the St. Louis game.

Consider the games against the Packers and the Texans.  This group of average players put up a moderate performance against two of the league’s top offenses.

As a result, they surrendered 34 and 40 points, respectively.  In contrast, the Saints’ defense again put up moderate performances against two of the league’s most ineffective offenses in the Jaguars and Colts.

The results?  Ten and seven points.

These have been the most extreme cases, but the overall performance of the defense has been what you might expect from any average defense against the particular opponent’s offense in virtually every game.

What are the defining characteristics of the Bears’ offense?

Matt Forte is elusive, and the offensive line is porous.  What happened when the Saints played the Bears?  Matt Forte had 166 all-purpose yards, and Jay Cutler was sacked 6 times.

The statistics also point to an average to slightly below-average defense overall.

The Saints are currently 22nd in the league in points allowed per game, 15th in yards allowed per game (11th in passing yards/game, 24th in rushing yards/game), and 11th in sacks. 

The one key area where the Saints rate far below average sits in stark contrast to the Super Bowl winning Saints of 2009:  takeaways.

Only five teams have fewer interceptions, and the Saints have recovered only four fumbles in eight games.

The last season and a half have borne out the skeptics’ concern that 2009’s takeaway frenzy was a fluke.

Maybe teams have learned to protect the ball better against the Saints, or maybe Darren Sharper really did have that much of an impact.

All in all, the defense seems to be doing just enough to keep the offense in a position to either win or lose a game.

In the Saints’ case, that’s not such a bad proposition, but, as we’ve seen a couple of times this year already, even Drew Brees can’t fire on all cylinders all the time.

If the Saints can find a way to at least become just average in terms of run defense and takeaways, that may be all the boost the team needs to challenge for another title.