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Five Numbers That Do Not Lie: Hide your quarterbacks, the Saints are coming

The Saints are doing amazing things...on defense!

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
One of these men is a football predator. The other one is the prey.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints (8-2) started the 2020 NFL season 1-2. Not only that, they had given up 34 and 37 points in those two losses. From the fourth to the seventh game of the season, the Saints would go undefeated, but still allow 29 points to the Lions, 27 points to the Chargers, 24 points to the Panthers and 23 points to the Panthers. However, when one looked closer, there was a positive trend: the number of points allowed was shrinking ever so slightly, and for those who paid attention to the fine details, there was less and less of the huge defensive busts of the early weeks.

Then came the second game against the NFL darlings, the almighty Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a 38-3 demolition of Tom Brady’s and crew that started the torrid pace the Saints’ defense is on right now. Since that game, Cameron Jordan and his boys haven’t looked back, spurred believe it or not by a second-year safety by the name of C.J. Gardner-Johnson who has instilled a level of physicality and nastiness (and I use that word fondly) in the Saints’ defense that it hadn’t had in...maybe forever.

Let’s look at some of the most eye-popping numbers put up by Dennis Allen’s men over the past three weeks:

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6 - Second Half Beasts

Don’t rub your eyes, you’re reading this right: The New Orleans Saints have allowed six total points on two field goals in the second half of their past three games combined. Three (garbage) points against the Bucs in week 9, three points against the Niners in week 10, and big fat zero points against the Falcons this past Sunday. We can talk about a bunch of defensive statistics, but in the end, the goal is to keep the opponent from scoring. Right now, the Saints’ defense is making it look easy.

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2.43 - Run at Your Own Peril

The Saints have been a top-five rushing defense in the NFL for a few years now. It used to be due to a couple of reasons: one, teams would be losing to the Saints by so much that they would abandon the run and chuck it all over the field to try and keep up with Drew Brees and New Orleans’ offense. The second reason was that teams could pass at will on New Orleans’ defense, so they would not even bother running the ball and the Saints’ defensive numbers against the run would be falsely inflated. Nowadays, the Saints are rarely blowing teams up, and opposing teams are in fact trying to run the ball against them, they simply cannot find any room to do so effectively. In the past three weeks, the Saints have allowed a combined 2.43 yards-per-rush average to the Bucs, Niners and Falcons, with Tampa Bay managing just 1.6 yards-per-rush. Chew on that for a little bit.

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49 - Actually, Don’t Even Bother Running

I am quite certain that you’ve heard about it, how the New Orleans Saints have not allowed a single running back to reach 100 yards on the ground in forever. That streak is indeed alive and well and still goes back to folk hero Samaje Perine of Washington, who did so on November 19, 2017. Yup, that’s over three calendar years ago and through 49 consecutive regular season games and counting. Perine on that day had 117 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown, in a Saints’ 34-31 overtime victory. This season, David Montgomery of the Chicago Bears came the closest, rushing 21 times for 89 yards in what was ironically another Saints overtime victory, a 26-23 win in the Windy City. Earlier in the year, Los Angeles Raiders running back Josh Jacobs rushed for 88 yards on 27 carries. No other running back that the Saints faced this year has had more than 71 rushing yards.

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7 - Gimme That!

One of the adages in the NFL is that turnovers come in bunches, and it couldn’t be truer for the New Orleans Saints the past three weeks. New Orleans has 11 interceptions on the season (10 games). Seven of them have come in the last three games, three against Tom Brady, and two apiece against Nick Mullens and Matt Ryan. Even more encouraging, the picks have come from various members of a secondary that was much-maligned earlier in the season, with safeties Marcus Williams (3) and Malcolm Jenkins (2), and cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore (1), Janoris Jenkins (2) and Patrick Robinson (2). For good measure, defensive tackle David Onyemata added a pick as well, because when things are going well, even your “fat” guys are catching interceptions.

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9.5 - Breakout Star

It is well established by now that the 2020 New Orleans Saints defense has been incredibly strong after a so-so start to the season. In fact, the Saints’ defense was expected to be good even before the season started, with top echelon talent at all three levels, secondary, linebacking corps and defensive line. What no one saw coming was an unheralded third round pick from the 2017 NFL draft leading not only the Saints, but also the entire NFL in sacks after 10 games. Trey Hendrickson, with 9.5 sacks so far this year, is tied for first in the NFL with Myles Garrett, who was taken with the number one overall pick by the Cleveland Browns in the very same draft as Hendrickson. The Saints’ breakout defensive end is ahead of the Steelers’ T.J. Watt (9.0), the Rams’ Aaron Donald (9.0) and the Packers’ Za’Darius Smith (8.0). How about that for a top five? For perspective, Cam Jordan who is still the most decorated defensive end on the Saints’ roster and one of the best in the league, is tied for 20th in the NFL to this point with 5.5 sacks. New Orleans couldn’t have asked for a better time for Hendrickson to step up, as opposing offensive lines now have two legit pass-rushing threats to worry about when they face the Saints. With additional pressure coming from the likes of Marcus Davenport, David Onyemata, Sheldon Rankins (when healthy) or Carl Granderson, good luck keeping up with this Saints’ defensive line.

Poll

Who has been the Saints’ defensive MVP through 10 games?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Trey Hendrickson: Breakout year and atop the NFL sacks leaderboard.
    (757 votes)
  • 40%
    Demario Davis: Leads the team in solo (45) and total tackles (66). Leader off the field.
    (747 votes)
  • 14%
    C.J. Gardner-Johnson: 2nd on the team with 43 solo tackles. Energizer bunny.
    (273 votes)
  • 1%
    Cam Jordan: 2nd on the team with 5.5 sacks, absorbs tons of double teams.
    (37 votes)
  • 2%
    David Onyemata: Has quietly had a very good season so far, already 5 sacks.
    (49 votes)
1863 votes total Vote Now