Opposite Sideline: Saints defense no joking matter
The lowdown on the Green Bay Packers' next opponent from a writer who covers that team.
The Green Bay Packers enter uncharted waters this Sunday as they take on the surging New Orleans Saints without their franchise quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
While that storyline has been well covered, what hasn't been talked about much is how well the Saints defense has been playing and how they have a winning record for the first time since 2013.
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We spoke with Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune about that defense, the New Orleans running game and a whole host of Saints stuff. You can find part of our exchange below and also in the video above.
1.The New Orleans Saints seemed to find their running game against the Detroit Lions. Was it as simple as jettisoning Adrian Peterson and defining roles for Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara? Was it the play of the offensive line? What gives?
There’s a sense of relief for Ingram with Peterson gone. Ingram didn’t deserve to be looking over his shoulder or splitting carries with Peterson because he’s a better overall back than Peterson. And now Sean Payton isn’t handcuffed and can run in both backs freely. It’s also fair to point to the return of left tackle Terron Armstead as a primary reason as to why the run game exploded. Armstead made his first start of the season last week after a shoulder injury sidelined him since June. Ingram’s 51-yard run and Kamara’s 21-yard run against Detroit came around the left edge. When healthy, Armstead is a difference maker on the offensive line.
2. Many NFL fans talk about what a different team the Saints are on the road and away from the friendly confines of the Superdome. In your opinion, do they struggle away from home any more than the average NFL team?
I’d say no because the Saints haven’t been a very good home team the last couple of years. The Saints went 4-4 in the Superdome in each of the last two seasons. Plus, the Saints are 2-1 on the road this season with wins at Carolina and against Miami in London. New Orleans has been mediocre wherever it’s played the past few years because it simply hasn’t been a very good team.
3. What in the world got into the Saints defense against the Detroit Lions? Not only did they score a franchise-record three defensive touchdowns in one game but they also forced 5 total turnovers. What keyed such a dominating performance?
This performance wasn’t an aberration. The perennially dreadful defense started turning things around in Week 3 at Carolina and continued against the Dolphins and the Lions. Successfully blitzing the quarterback has been the main reason for the turnaround. Here are my combined stats for Cam Newton, Jay Cutler and Matt Stafford when the Saints blitzed in passing situations the past three games: 24-47, 264 yards, one TD, five INTs (two pick-sixes); one rush, 10 yards; seven sacks; two lost fumbles (one for a TD), 35.55 passer rating.