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The Saints Defense Can't Get Off the Field

It's Week 14, and the Saints are in position to make the postseason despite the struggles they've had all season. If they want to have any chance at being successful, the defense has to be able to get off the field against opposing offenses.

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Marshall Faulk wants to know what areas need to be sharpened to give your team an edge:

To be GMC Professional Grade you must be precise. The playoffs demand precision, as the talent gap has narrowed considerably. As the last month of regular season winds down, what areas need to be sharpened to give your team an edge?

There are plenty of areas that need to be sharpened for the Saints to have an edge.

The offense is inefficient at times. The blocking has seemed to progressively get worse as the season has gone along. The receivers drops passes and disappear at inopportune times.

Despite that, the biggest problem is the defense - not just one particular area. The unit collectively isn't making the big plays they need to and offense are moving the ball more efficiently against the Saints than any other team in the NFL.

Football Outsiders provides a wide array of helpful, detailed statistics for many facets of team. Please be aware of graphic content when looking at the team statistics for the Saints defense.

Where do I begin? The Saints defense is last in the NFL is yards-per-drive. Opposing offenses average 39 yards-per-possession against New Orleans. Coming in at 31st, they allow 2.45 points-per-drive. They allow opposing offenses to run 6.45 plays-per-drive, which is 30th in the league. Another category that's dead last is time of possession-per-drive. Teams average just under 3:00 of possession on each drive against the Saints.

The most troubling stats are the next two categories, each of which the Saints are dead last in the league in. The first is a statistic called Drive Success Rate. It measures the percentage of drives that result in at least one first down or a touchdown. Opposing offenses have a 75% DSR against New Orleans. The Saints have only forced three-and-outs on 25% of possessions this season. The next category is opposing third-down percentage. The Saints are last in the league at 47.4%.

All of those statistics show how the Saints defense has been incapable of getting off of the field this season. For an offense that seems to be improving and providing a balanced attack, this is really troubling. A big reason for the struggles is the inability to form a consistent pass rush. For much of the season, it's seemed that Junior Galette has been the only player getting any push from the defensive line. NFL quarterbacks that have all day to throw will eat defenses alive, and that's even more so true on third down. More pass rush forces quicker and more errant throws by the QB, which allows the secondary to make more plays on the ball instead of being left on an island for five seconds.

If the Saints plan on having any chance to make a run, the defense has to force some stops, and they have to force the stops quicker. With the emergence of a consistent power running game, New Orleans has the ability to wear down defenses with time of possession and an effective passing game. When the defense can't get stops, we see Sean Payton get overaggressive with play calling, and we see Drew Brees force throws he doesn't have to.

This team is right there in terms of being in the postseason, but the defense has to improve if they want to be there for more than one week.

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