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1991 New Orleans Saints defense named 16th-best of past 30 years

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Football Outsiders used DVOA to rank the NFL’s best defenses of the past 30 years, and the 1991 Saints made the cut.

Vaughan Johnson

Recently through ESPN Insider, Football Outsiders named their Top 30 defenses of the past 30 years. The 1991 New Orleans Saints, anchored by their esteemed Dome Patrol, came in at 16th-best on the list.

The article, which requires Insider access to view, used DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) to rank the units. In short, it measures every aspect of the defense down to the nitty gritty details. You can check out the exact process here.

16. 1991 New Orleans Saints

-22.7 percent

This was the finest year for the Dome Patrol, New Orleans' linebacker corps that combined pass-rushers Rickey Jackson and Pat Swilling with USFL refugees Vaughan Johnson and Sam Mills. The Saints won their first-ever division title at 11-5, allowing fewer than 14 points per game with a league-leading 29 interceptions.

Naturally, Vaughan Johnson, Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, and Sam Mills get a ton of credit for the successes of the Saints that season. However, defensive linemen Frank Warren, Wayne Martin, and Jim Wilks, cornerbacks Vince Buck and Toi Cook, and safeties Brett Maxie, Vencie Glenn, and Gene Atkins can’t be overlooked when mentioning this fearsome defense that turned in a 50.0-sack performance in addition to the aforementioned 29 picks.

The 1991 Eagles defense came in ranked 1st overall, with 2002 Buccaneers (2nd), 2000 Ravens (3rd), 2004 Bills (4th), and 2015 Broncos (5th) rounding out the Top 5.

Of course, they also pointed out how terrible the 2015 Saints defense was.

1. 2015 New Orleans Saints (+26.1 percent): The Saints allowed 7.9 net yards per pass, the worst figure since the 1981 Baltimore Colts. They also allowed a league-worst 4.9 yards per carry on the ground. Combined, that's 6.63 yards per play, the worst in NFL history. And they did this against a schedule ranked 29th in the league.