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Can Spagnuolo Save the Saints from Slow Start?


Things are looking bleak for the Saints following their 0-2 start to the 2012 season. Bleak because I keep hearing how rare it is for NFL teams to make the playoffs following such a rough start. Specifically, only 12 percent of the teams that have started 0-2 have played in the post-season. Like I said, bleak.

But I also keep hearing that starting slow is the typical method of operation for Steve Spagnuolo-coached defenses. We can all agree most of the Saints troubles thus far are on the defensive side of the ball. They currently average a whopping 37.5 points allowed per game. So does that mean we can expect everything to turn around for the Saints defense beginning next week and we can all stop worrying?

Maybe. Probably not, but maybe.

To believe slow starts are a staple of a Spagnuolo defense and to expect a sudden transformation for the Saints would be more than a little naive. The problem is that these in-season improvements from Steve Spagnuolo defenses that we keep hearing about aren't a regular occurrence, as some have led us to believe.

In reality, Spagnuolo's defense has only once made a dramatic transformation from rotten to respectable following a slow start and that was in 2007 with the Giants. Check out how they shut it down following a poor output the first two weeks of the season.

2007 Giants First 2 games Rest of Season
Average Points allowed 40 19.4
Average yards allowed 423 288.1
Average sacks per game 1.0 3.6

The good news is that there's precedent for this exact situation, so it is possible. A Spagnuolo defense giving up lots of yards and lots of points in the first two games finally flips the switch and goes into lockdown mode. The 2007 Giants turnaround was marked, which is exactly what the Saints need at this point. The best news of all, of course, is that the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that season.

The point is that there's still hope for the Saints, no matter how bleak things may look right now, it's just not something we should definitely expect. The season is not over; the playoffs are not out of the picture. But they do have an uphill climb and the deck is definitely stacked against them.

2012 Saints First 2 games Rest of Season
Average Points allowed 37.5 ???
Average yards allowed 461 ???
Average sacks per game 1.5 ???