FILM STUDY: At times when Saints offense struggles, defense rises

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Safety Vonn Bell forces a fumble against Carolina.

By Jesse Brooks

At the end of the day, the narrative has to be about how spectacular to the New Orleans Saints’ defense playing. For one, we should always hold high expectations of the Drew Brees led offense because that has been the team’s identity for over a decade.

I decided to do a bit of film study.

I look at the last Tampa game and I don’t see a “motivated” team that “played better” after Taysom Hill’s magical blocked punt. I see a defense that was doing the dirty work, holding the Bucs to just two touchdowns while a banged up Saints offense sputtered out. The second TD came off of a short field set up by a Brees INT. The defense went even harder and held the Bucs to 0 points in the second half as the offense finally discovered some weaknesses.

Against Carolina, I see the Saints’ best defensive performance, maybe ever. Vonn Bell gets two early pass breakups to force third downs, a forced fumble turning over possession, and a sack. Eli Apple, a guy once written off as the Giants’ first-round bust, gets an INT in the end zone, in addition to a couple of pass breakups. Apple has absolutely elevated this defense. The first two tackles on Carolina’s last drive preventing first down? They were made by Bell and Apple. Saints win 12-9.

The offense found it’s footing more against Pittsburgh, but stalled out again midway through the third quarter. The Saints defense began to break. The Steelers pull ahead 28-24 featuring one of the league’s best offenses with receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. However, they pull together for one last close out.

Safety Kurt Coleman forces a fumble at 10:12 in the fourth quarter to give possession back to the Saints, killing the Steelers’ drive on the Saints’ 35-yard line after they were rolling. A missed kick just over six minutes left in regulation is a missed opportunity for the Saints to get points. At 5:35, Demario Davis gets a sack, setting up a Steelers punt. Pittsburg fakes, the special team stops the fourth down conversion.

The Saints take the opportunity and score on a short field. Michael Thomas’s touchdown catch occurs with 1:05 left, leaving time for a Pittsburgh drive. Steelers, approaching field goal range, toss a complete pass to Smith-Schuster, but Saints DL Sheldon Rankins forces a fumble that turns over possession and seals the game.

Three straight weeks of crucial defensive play.

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