Good: Encouraging Defensive Performance
Wait, what? The Saints gave up 32 points, so how did their defense impress?
First, let us take a look at the offense they were facing.
The Chiefs came into the week ranking first in yards/play (6.6) by a wide amount. In this game, they only averaged 4.5 yards/play. Just from that, you can infer that New Orleans did as good of a job defending Kansas City as anyone could.
The Saints sacked Patrick Mahomes four times, and overall, held him to one of his most ineffective games of the season- he averaged just 5.4 yards per pass attempt. As Pro Football Focus’ Eric Eager pointed out, it was quite the performance by their defensive line:
Hendrickson, in particular, was a standout performer. With 12.5 sacks this season, he is going to land a major free-agent contract, even if he has benefited greatly from cleanup pressures.
What was very encouraging was how the defensive line and pass coverage worked together to defend the pass. New Orleans came into this game knowing they couldn’t blitz Mahomes, and they were able to get consistent pressure with a four-man rush.
At the same time, their ability to force Mahomes to hold onto the ball by preventing quick separation from the league’s best receiving corps is equally as impressive.
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Yes, the Saints were gashed for 179 yards on the ground. However, that is simply the sacrifice you make when you face the Chiefs. Rather than getting beaten through the air, teams have wisely played with two safeties back and allowed Kansas City to engage in a less-productive style of offense.
The fact that they averaged 4.4 yards/rush attempt in what was seen as a quality rushing performance demonstrates exactly why you can never be concerned about defending the run against them.
Against less elite offenses, New Orleans should be able to stop the run like they have previously.
So, despite allowing 32 points, this was one of the Saints’ most impressive defensive performances of the season.
Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen did a great job not blitzing and playing with two safeties deep, and overall, they were able to frustrate Kansas City. This is a blueprint that other teams, such as the Bills, ought to follow when facing the Chiefs as well.