Impact Drive: Saints Defense Brings the Heat

Malcolm Jenkins giving a big bear hug to Jay Cutler - Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

In beating the Chicago Bears last Sunday, the New Orleans Saints racked up another three sacks. Unlike what we saw against Miami the week prior, each sack against the Bears was the result of a blitz. What the film shows is that under Rob Ryan, the Saints defense has become multiple and has the ability to adjust to the type of offense it faces.

The astonishing resurgence of the New Orleans Saints defense under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has been talked about, written about, prodded, scrutinized and doubted. With every passing game however, Ryan's crew is making believers out of both fans and pundits. This turnaround is seemingly here to stay.

In five games this season, the Saints are yet to allow more than 18 points to any of their opponent. They rank 4th in the league in points allowed (14.6), are tied for 3rd in interceptions (7) and are 7th in sacks (15).

Of the 15 sacks the Saints have amassed this season, three came against the Chicago Bears this past Sunday, albeit in a slightly unusual fashion compared to what we've been seeing this season.

After blitzing very sparingly in their first four games of the season, New Orleans brought extra pass rushers early and often which allowed them to get to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

The artistry of the blitz is in its design. Confusing a veteran quarterback and exploiting weaknesses in the protection of his offensive line require the proper disguise as to who is bringing the pressure and who is dropping in coverage.

Against Chicago, not only were the Saints' blitz designs clever, more often than not, the execution of the plays was nearly flawless. Let's look at the tape.

---

First and 10, Bears 20-yard line (Jay Cutler sacked by Malcolm Jenkins).

Before the snap, the Bears line up with two stacked receivers on the left, one receiver on the right and running back Matt Forte in the backfield to the right of quarterback Jay Cutler. The Saints show an eight-man front with two down-defensive linemen.

Mike_jenkins-snap_medium
---

Next Frame:

The Coaches Film view, allows us to see the defensive play design clearly. Of the eight-man front, only five will rush the quarterback, while five drop in coverage. The Saints bring a double-safety blitz from the right (quarterback's blind side) with Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Vaccaro.

Mike_jenkins-snap-cf_medium
---

Next Frame:

Post-snap, the Saints are immediately in a favorable position. Both the Bears left tackle and left guard (blue arrows) are engaged with Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro and right defensive end Junior Galette (red arrows), freeing safety Malcolm Jenkins (red curling arrow) who now has a direct shot at the quarterback.

Mike_jenkins-post-snap-cf_medium
---

Next Frame:

From a different angle, the Bears left tackle has a tough choice and chooses to protect the inside of the pocket by blocking Vaccaro. Jenkins' (red arrow) path to the quarterback is unimpeded.

Mike_jenkins-unblocked_medium
---

Next Frame:

At this point, only a quick release of the ball by the quarterback could avert a sure sack.

Mike_jenkins-blindsided_medium
---

Next Frame:

The Saints secondary does its job, forcing Cutler to hold on to the ball a second too long. He is sacked by Jenkins and fumbles the ball which is recovered by the Saints.

Mike_jenkins-sacked_medium
---

---

Second and 9, Bears 26-yard line (Cutler sacked by Kenny Vaccaro).

In this play in the second quarter, the Saints employ the same exact formation as the one that produced their first sack. They open with an eight-man front and an overload to the right (left of the offensive line). The difference in the Bears formation this time is that running back Matt Forte is lined up to the left of his quarterback.

Vaccaro_-_snap_medium
---

Next Frame:

From the Coaches Film view, Jenkins (red arrow to the right, not pictured) and Vaccaro (#32, red arrow) will blitz from the blind side of the quarterback. By being on the left side of Cutler, Forte (yellow arrow) should be able to pick up one of the blitzers, while the other one should be the responsibility of left tackle Jermon Bushrod (blue arrow).

Vaccaro_-_snap-cf_medium
---

Next Frame:

After the snap, Bushrod (blue arrow) makes the mistake of not picking up Kenny Vaccaro and instead goes to block defensive end Junior Galette. This leaves running back Matt Forte (yellow arrow) in a precarious position, having to block two rushers.

Vaccaro_-_post-snap_medium
---

Next Frame:

At that very moment, Matt Forte must have thought: "Thanks a lot Jermon."

Vaccaro_-_post-snap-angle_medium
---

Next Frame:

Forte whiffs on either blocks and all Cutler (blue arrow) can do is brace himself for impact.

Vaccaro_-_brace_yourself_medium
---

Next Frame:

Kenny Vaccaro sacks Cutler for an 8-yard loss.

Vaccaro_-_sacked_medium
---

---

Second and 10, Bears 34-yard line (Jay Cutler sacked by David Hawthorne).

Prior to the snap on this play, the Bears line up with trips on the right and two-stacked receivers on the left. The Saints once again show an eight-man front, but they overload it to the left this time. Once again the potential blitzers are safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Vaccaro.

David_hawthorne-snap_medium
---

Next Frame:

The trick here is to make the Bears offensive line think that it is a double-safety blitz from the left. The actual design is a zone-blitz with linebacker David Hawthorne (gold arrow) to the right. Once again, the Saints rush five, while both safeties and linebacker Curtis Lofton drop in coverage.

David_hawthorne-snap-cf_medium
---

Next Frame:

The play works to perfection. Both the Bears left tackle and left guard (blue arrows) have to block edge-rushing linebacker Ramon Humber (#53, red arrow) and defensive end Junior Galette (#93, red arrow) who rushes the A-gap. This opens up a wide alley in the B-gap for linebacker David Hawthorne (gold arrow).

David_hawthorne-alley_medium
---

Next Frame:

Cutler tries to escape laterally, but it is futile as Hawthorne is quickly bearing down on him.

David_hawthorne-escape_medium
---

Next Frame:

Cutler is sacked by Hawthorne (#57) for a 7-yard loss.

David_hawthorne-sacked_medium
---

What the Saints showed in Chicago is that they will adjust to the type of offense they are playing. New Orleans exploited the deficiencies in blitz-pickup of quarterback Jay Cutler and of the left side of the Bears offensive line.

With the Patriots on deck, it is safe to assume that Rob Ryan will be back to predominantly rushing the quarterback with the front-four, while dropping seven in coverage. This would probably be the smart game-plan to avoid getting burned by blitz-savvy quarterback Tom Brady.

More from Canal Street Chronicles:

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Canal Street Chronicles

You must be a member of Canal Street Chronicles to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Canal Street Chronicles. You should read them.

Join Canal Street Chronicles

You must be a member of Canal Street Chronicles to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Canal Street Chronicles. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker