For the Saints' Defense, Deception Lies in the Statistics

[caption id="attachment_277" align="aligncenter" width="714" caption="Photo by Parker Waters"][/caption]

It’s one thing to put on a clinic while between the numbers; it’s another thing to put on a spectacle.  For many Saints fans, the Thanksgiving weekend was all too savory too forget.  Between the trio of solid contests to watch on “Turkey Day,” the division rival Buccaneers losing on Sunday and the Giants coming to “The Big Easy” for what would be a total beat down, the “Who Dat Nation” had plenty to enjoy over the course of the past weekend. 

On the field, the New Orleans offense was truly a sight to behold.  QB Drew Brees had another career day to add on to his resume, as he passed for 363 yards and four TDs (He also had a rushing TD.).  Also, the Saints appeared to find a sense of balance in the run game, as both Pierre Thomas and rookie Mark Ingram scored (Thomas has 63 yards rushing; Ingram had 80.).  Finally, the receivers once again proved why they are amongst the best corps in the NFC, as Lance Moore totaled 54 yards and two scores and Jimmy Graham had 84 receiving yards for two TDs.  At the end of the day, the offense was able to tack on 49 points on the average defense of the Giants, allowing the Black and Gold to further enjoy their Thanksgiving celebration.

Speaking of defense, the Saints’ “D” has been a topic of conversation as of late.  When one takes a glance at the stats sheet, he/she would immediately believe that Gregg Williams’ squad played a poor contest.  I mean comon, when QB Eli Manning threw for 406 yards and two TDs, WR Victor Cruz caught nine passes for 157 yards and two scores and RB Brandon Jacobs totaled 46 yards on the ground and a TD, one would have to assume that the Saints’ defense played poorly, right?  From former San Francisco 49ers QB Steve Young’s perspective, this was the case.  Young, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and analyst for ESPN, had very little on the positive side to say about the Black and Gold’s defensive performance on Monday night. 

Young’s comments included several of the following lines (and please note that these are paraphrased):  “The Saints’ defense is not good enough to beat Green Bay….Aaron Rodgers, with all professional courtesy, would say, ‘I cannot wait to play this defense.’”  Now sure, Young has a point; the Saints’ defense probably couldn’t keep up with the Packers.  Then again, neither have the ten other defenses that Green Bay has shut down en route to an 11-0 record.  With this being said, Young seemed to harp on the Saints’ final defensive stat line at the end of the contest, saying that “they gave up too many yards” among other things. 

Even ESPN NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas had this little nugget to post:  “New Orleans’ defense gave up way too many yards. Then again, it didn’t really matter because there was no way a depleted New York defense was going to stop Brees and the New Orleans offense. But New Orleans still needs some improvement on defense, or that might come back to bite the Saints in the postseason.”

Now all I have to respond with is this, “Really?”  It’s one thing to down a defense that surrendered 465 total yards in a close contest; it’s another to criticize a defense for such an act in a blowout victory.  Let’s take a look back at the scoring in this one, shall we?

At the end of the second quarter, the score was 21-3, as two Moore TDs and a Graham score put the Saints up by three TDs to conclude the first half.  Jacobs would give the Giants an opening score in the third quarter; however, Brees and the Saints’ offense would retaliate with two scores of their own, giving the Black and Gold a 35-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter.  Two Victor Cruz TDs in the final quarter helped pad the Giants’ offensive stats a little more, but two rushing TDs by Thomas and Ingram would put the contest out of reach for the “G-Men.” 

In the second half alone, the Giants racked up 279 of their 465 total offensive yards.  Now what doesn’t show up on the stats sheet?  Anyone watching the game could take note of the Saints’ “prevent” defense throughout both the third and fourth quarters, as CBs Tracy Porter, Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson gave the Giants’ set of young receivers solid separation off of the line of scrimmage in order to prevent “the big play.”  Granted, a lapse in coverage ultimately led to one such “big play” (Cruz’s 72-yard reception in the fourth quarter); regardless, the scoreboard read 35-10 at the time of the TD, so no harm was truly done. 

So what point am I trying to make here?  For the first half, when the game was a fairly close contest, the defense allowed a total of 193 yards (primarily through the air) and a field goal.  The run defense was as stout as it has looked all season long, as Jacobs had his share of troubles trying to break into the Saints’ secondary (Without LB Jonathan Vilma, the solid New Orleans run defense was a joy to watch.).  The “D” also added an INT, a fumble recovery and a 14-yard sack to their 2011 statistics.  Oh, and please don’t get me started on the multiple questionable “defenseless receiver” penalties (This type of penalty is getting ridiculous, but that rant is for another day.).  It wasn’t until the second half that the Giants began to tack on the “garbage yards,” which ultimately led to a whopping number at the end of the contest.

Long story short, the Saints’ defense played as well as it could have when it counted on Monday.  Once Gregg Williams decided to take his foot off of the throttle, the Giants began to show tiny pulses of life.  For Giants fans, though, it’s quite a shame, because not even 279 yards in a half of football could resurrect the corpse that was the boys in blue this past weekend.

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