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Saints Defense in Decline?

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Remember earlier this season when we were all complaining about the Saints struggling offense while praising the defense for keeping the team alive in more than a few games?

Well the tables appeared to have turned, as if the two units simultaneously wished upon an ornamental skull. For the past three weeks it's the offense that has found its rhythm and returned to its point-scoring, yardage-eating ways while the defense's production has dropped significantly, the two never meeting in the middle.

So why has the Saints defense started to struggle as of late? A look at the numbers reveals a big difference in their ability to stop the pass and get off the field these past three games. Take a look at some of these statistical changes...

Opponent Average Net Yards Passing

First 9 games: 166.3 ypg

Last 3 games: 298 ypg

Opponent Average Completion Percentage

First 9 games: 58.82%

Last 3 games: 71.28%

Opponent Passing First Downs

First 9 games: 8.2 per game

Last 3 games: 14.6 per game

Opponent Average Third Down Conversion Percentage

First 9 games: 33.39%

Last 3 games: 46.65%

All of this now begs the question: why has the Saints defense started to struggle with stopping the pass, especially now that they've got both their starting cornerbacks healthy again? Are the Saints simply facing better offenses and quality quarterbacks? And most importantly: will the defense and offense ever both play well in the same game?