The Saints cannot continue to count on strong defensive performance to win games

DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 29: Latavius Murray #28 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates alongside Michael Thomas #13 and Erik McCoy #78 during the third quarter of a game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field At Mile High on November 29, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 29: Latavius Murray #28 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates alongside Michael Thomas #13 and Erik McCoy #78 during the third quarter of a game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field At Mile High on November 29, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Improving Defense

As mentioned in the intro, the Saints have allowed a grand total of 28 points in their last four games.

Playing a Broncos team without an active quarterback and Nick Mullens helps, but it’s also worth noting that they’ve played well against a couple of well-regarded quarterbacks:

  • Tom Brady: 5.5 yards/attempt, 40.4 Passer Rating
  • Matt Ryan: 6.27 yards/attempt, 48.3 Passer Rating

When analyzing the team’s improvements, it all comes back to their ability to defend the pass, as evidence by how they shut down Brady and Ryan. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins has six pass deflections and two interceptions in his last two games, while Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has dominated against slot receivers with four pass deflections.

The improvements in pass coverage don’t end there. The addition of linebacker Kwon Alexander has really helped their middle-of-the-field coverage, while Demario Davis, Malcolm Jenkins, and Marcus Williams are all playing better.

After struggling with tight ends earlier in the season, Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst didn’t have a catch, while running backs have been a non-factor against them in the passing game.

Meanwhile, their pass rush has absolutely dominated. Against Brady and Ryan, they had eight sacks against them each, as their flexible talent has allowed defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to be more creative in his blitz packages.

Heading into last week, edge rusher Trey Hendrickson was leading the league in sacks, Cameron Jordan has four sacks in his last two games, interior defender David Onyemata had eight QB hits in his last three games, and Marcus Davenport has also made an impact.

The ability to generate consistent pressure from the defensive line has allowed the Saints to not sacrifice as many coverage players to rush the passer, though that hasn’t stopped Davis and Gardner-Johnson from generating pressure as well.

Right now, New Orleans ranks 2nd in rushing yards allowed/attempt, 6th in passing yards allowed/attempt, and 4th in sack percentage. Right now, they’re clicking on all cylinders.

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