It’s been said a lot this season about the New Orleans Saints, and it rang true again this past Sunday during their 28-9 victory in over the Chicago Bears in the NFL playoffs. The strength of this team is the defensive line, primarily the run defense. The Saints, who boast Pro Football Focus’s top rated run defense in the league, once again shut down another opposing running back as Chicago’s 1,000-yard rusher David Montgomery. Montgomery carried the ball 12 times for just 31 yards on Sunday, being held to a longest run of just six yards and being held to one yard or fewer on four attempts.
This season, I’ve detailed in similar pieces about how the strength of this already immovable run defense was up the middle. The Bears, a team that generally likes to run up the middle rather than outside the tackles, played right into New Orleans’s strengths. Out of the 15 designed run plays from the Bears on Sunday, 12 of them came between the tackles, running it right into the throats of the Saints defensive line.
Part of the reason the Saints have had such an impressive defensive line is their depth, shown on display right here with Malcolm Brown blowing up this attempted 2nd and 10 run. With the Bears attempting an inside zone run, Brown gets to the backside of the center and hits Montgomery before he can get back to the line of scrimmage.
While Cameron Jordan’s sack numbers have been down in 2020, he’s been as productive a run defender as ever. The Bears run to the left side on this play and leave Jordan unblocked, and when Marcus Davenport and Sheldon Rankins force Montgomery to hesitate before the hole in the offensive line disappears, Jordan’s there to clean up the scraps and make the tackle for a gain of just 2 yards.
To cap things off, this play is the Saints’ run defense at its best. Another inside zone attempt for the Bears ends with the defensive line filling any potential hole the Bears try to open up. Right when Montgomery cuts back and thinks he’s found something, Alex Anzalone is there to make the stop. Another great play made possible by the entire front seven.
This weekend, the Saints matchup against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that ran the ball a wallopping five times in their last meeting. While this was largely due to the Saints jumping out to a big lead early, being able to shut down the Tampa Bay run game will still be an important factor for the Saints this weekend. The less Tampa runs, the more the Saints defense can focus on Brady.
Do you think the Saints will be able to beat the Bucs? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, follow us on Twitter @SaintsCSC, on Instagram at @SaintsCSC, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel.