(Takes big whiff) Smell that? That's the smell of being undefeated in the NFL. Smells nice, doesn't it? Going to work on Monday sucks. When it comes after a week one division win over Tampa Bay, when last season it took 5 weeks to get a W, it sucks just a little less. What makes it even so much more satisfying is that our defense won it. They came through when we really needed them. Though Tampa's final score was 20, the defense really only let up 13 of those points. In fact, it was the Saints high powered offense that played a little flat, particularly most of the first half.
Honestly, I think we lose this game last year. Think about it. Tracy Porter's pass breakup in the end zone on third down forcing the Bucs to kick a field goal? I think that's a touchdown last year. Porter had another clutch pass break up late in the fourth quarter and Gay made a crucial one against Galloway on a deep passing play that, had it been last year, probably all would have been completed to keep the opponents drive alive if not taken all the way to the house. Yesterday we never saw that big play just kill us and we never saw drives get extended, keeping our defense on the field too long. There was a lot of bending but very little breaking. Rejoice!
Compare this game's stats to last seasons early season week two matchup that saw the Bucs beat the Saints 31-14. There are two important stats that I think show how far this team's defense has come from last year.
|Tampa Bay Offense||3rd Down Efficiency||Average Gain per Passing Play|
|Week 2 - 2007||5/11 - 45%||15.2 yards|
|Week 1 - 2008||2/12 - 16%||4.8 yards|
The Saints defense came up big on third downs and got themselves off the field quickly. Crucial. The other number shows you how big of a difference we have in our pass defense. You can compare them yourself here and here per NFL.com.
So what's the difference? I shouldn't even have to mention it. We have been talking about the upgrades to this unit all summer. But until today, the question's were still unanswered. It's the regular season now, so it's time to start accepting answers to these questions.
Can Sedrick Ellis make a difference? Yes! You would have to be blind to not see how improved this defensive line is. This guy is a play maker with a non stop motor. Grant had a very impressive game tonight but a lot of that must be credited to the play of Ellis as well. The disruption he causes in the middle unnerves quarterbacks and flushes them out of the pocket.
Is the secondary upgraded? Yes! Again, the average gain per passing play stat should say it all. This improvement may be addition by the subtraction of Jason David but Tracy Porter looked very impressive. The kid can play. He earned his spot on this team beating out a lot of veterans and yesterday he showed us why. With Mike McKenzie almost healthy there is still upside here. Even Glenn, who came in for an injured Gay late in the game, did a solid job. Wait a minute. Are we deep at the CB position?
Will Vilma make a big impact? Yes! The Saints took a bit of a gamble on him this offseason and appear to have won. He is starting to show his true talent and I think it's only going to get more fun to watch him. He was all over the field yesterday and was at the top of the list for tackles with seven. The Jets loss is our gain.
Again, it's certainly not perfect but its a good start. It appears the Saints have done a great job addressing and solving the problems this defense has shown but that doesn't mean we're perfect. There will be new problems that will be exposed and need attention. The run defense leaves much to be desired. The Buc's gained an average of 7.2 yards per run play. That is pitiful. Our tackling was even more pitiful. Both are areas that need extra attention this week. After week one, however, this is right where we wanted to be.