“Well certainly their pass rush (produced). But I think, just as importantly, their efficiency yesterday on first and second down and really putting Tennessee into those certain favorable down and distances that you want defensively. - Sean Payton
Through six weeks they lead the league in sacks with (26) and are top 3 in pass deflections with (44). In short they’ve done nothing to dispel the notion that they aren’t that same dominating and swarming defense that has become synonymous with Baltimore.
A lot of what they’ve been able to accomplish has started with their defense appearing to use an organic front that has multiple players standing and moving prior to the snap to compliment their exotic blitz packages.
Behold the “amoeba” defense that Saints fans should be familiar with from Rob Ryan’s forgettable tour in New Orleans.
It’s pretty obvious what the Ravens like to do.
The objective is to confuse the offense about who’s dropping and who’s blitzing. This stresses not only the quarterback but the offensive line. Pre-snap the QB has to figure out who’s coming and set the protection to impede the expected blitz, as well as decipher the coverage. Guess wrong and post snap you have guys running free for easy sacks or a QB throwing an INT to a defender in a zone that dropped unexpectedly.
It can be a Nightmare on Elm Street for some quarterbacks to figure out.
Division games I like to omit because opponent familiarity and game-plans can play a part in a good (or sometimes bad) defensive effort on a Sunday.
Instead I decided to look at their non division opponents in the Broncos and Titans and the truth is the advantage that their scheme provides loses it’s effect when you play a QB the level of Drew Brees.
Let’s put it this way, Brees isn’t a Case Keenum or Marcus Mariota.
#9 is a guy that is right now operating on a Hall of Fame level as far as processing goes both post and pre-snap and prior to this game the current personality of this Ravens defense worked for them. We’ll stand up, we’ll move around, we’ll blitz to get 1 on 1’s, we’ll muddy the reads for the QB and we’ll ATTACK.
Well what happens when you go against an attacking offense guided by a rarely confused QB that can...Alert Alert....run the ball?
I’ll tell you what happens!
You come out following Sundays game looking for answers as to what happened to the defense we’d heard so much about and their defensive captain responds in a manner very similar to the one below.
#Panthers LB Luke Kuechly: "People ask me, "What happened to your defense?" Drew Brees happened to our defense. That's what happened."— Ed Werder (@EdwerderRFA) December 7, 2015
Saints WR’s vs Ravens DB’s
New Orleans lost a component of their offense when they put Ted Ginn Jr. on IR Thursday and the fact is Tre’Quan Smith has not proven he can fill that particular role. What we do know is that like Thomas he can make the contested grab as well as rack up yards after the catch. The Ravens play a good amount of Cover 1 and Cover 3 and Drew’s completion percentage comes down a bit vs man coverage because of tighter windows. These guys along with Cam Meredith need to create some separation or this could lead to a game of filled with deflections and or uncharacteristic drops from receivers not named Michael Thomas.
Backs in pass protection
The Saints are not going to max protect to counter the blitz. They’re going to leave a back in for pass protection and trust him to make the right read. I like both Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara equally in this role vs Baltimore. If they are able to successfully stifle the blitz it not only gives Drew time to get the ball to receivers running through open zones but it makes the screen game more dangerous in the long run. All it takes is a perfectly timed play call mixed with a believable sell and respect from the opposing defense and you’ve got a slip screen to the RB going for 30-45 yards.
Player to Watch: FS - Marcus Williams
Williams in his first 5 games is suffering through the dreaded sophomore slump and is currently on pace for career lows in tackles, INT’s, and pass deflections. He’ll be facing a Ravens team who’s success downfield can be attributed to a mix of designed “shot” calls (QB’s first read) and Joe Flacco’s willingness to just sling it to John Brown as he progresses through his reads. There is a philosophy in place to attack opposing defenses deep and that means plenty of chances for Williams to either allow a big play or make one. Last time New Orleans played an AFC North opponent it was a Williams INT vs a veteran QB that sparked a subsequent win. Can he do it again?
Random Thought - I wonder if the Saints
Historically under Sean Payton the Saints have primarily been a finesse team that’s folded like origami when facing more physical defenses like the Ravens are known for having. That quite simply is no longer the case. New Orleans is solid on both their offensive and defensive lines and the war always starts in the trenches. These Saints get punched in the mouth and then punch back with 15 play drives that can sap the energy of even the toughest defense. Drew Brees breaks defenses and he’s going to break this one cement himself as only the 3rd QB in history to defeat all 32 NFL teams. Saints 31 Ravens 24