COMMENTARY | The New Orleans Saints are 2-0 in 2013, primarily because of their defense.
In Week 1, the Saints defense held the high-powered Atlanta Falcons to only 17 points. Then in Week 2, the defense went on the road and only allowed one touchdown to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although the Saints made several key additions, such as S Kenny Vaccaro and CB Keenan Lewis, to their defense, New Orleans' biggest addition (no pun intended) will not play a down in 2013.
After allowing the most yards in NFL history in 2012, the Saints hired Rob Ryan as their new defensive coordinator. New Orleans felt that Ryan's 3-4 scheme was a better fit for its defensive personnel. What the Saints needed was a way to generate pressure on opposing QBs without having to blitz. Invariably, the old Saints would blitz and still not sack the QB, which exposed New Orleans' secondary.
Through two games, Ryan has rarely blitzed, but New Orleans has four sacks. More importantly, the Saints' ability to keep seven or eight defenders in coverage has seriously impeded the ability of their first two opponents to pass effectively. Falcons QB Matt Ryan and Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman combined for only 429 passing yards against Rob Ryan's defense.
Except for one big run by Steven Jackson, New Orleans kept the Falcons RB in check for most of the game. Buccaneers RB Doug Martin had a good game against the Saints defense, but he needed 29 carries to reach 144 yards. More importantly, New Orleans kept Martin out of the end zone.
The most important thing that Rob Ryan has instilled in the Saints defense is a sense of confidence. Ryan's improved Saints are actually playing well despite numerous injuries. In fact, Ryan is using several second and third string players, who either played very little for the porous 2012 Saints defense or were discarded by other NFL teams. Ryan is getting the maximum output from his defense in New Orleans, which is all that any coach could ask for.
Through Week 2, Rob Ryan's defense will not rank at the top of the NFL. The Saints were 17th in total yards allowed after defeating the Falcons and they will likely only rise a few places after Week 2. But the Saints don't need their defense to be great. Even an average defense should be enough to get New Orleans back to the playoffs. The ability to rush the passer and force turnovers is all the Saints need from Rob Ryan's defense in 2013.
If the first two games are any indication, it may take Sean Payton and Drew Brees more time than anticipated to reestablish their rhythm. The Saints have moved the ball in 2013, but they were surprisingly inefficient in the red zone versus the Buccaneers. In fact, Brees threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a TD. I never thought I'd say this, but the 2013 New Orleans Saints are undefeated because of their defense.
Most Saints fans believed that the return of Sean Payton would be the difference for New Orleans in 2013. Although New Orleans certainly needs Payton's leadership, Rob Ryan has been the most important addition through two games.
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of the New Orleans Saints. Patrick's favorite Saints season was 2009 when New Orleans won Super Bowl 44. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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