Some observations on the New Orleans Saints’ defense after reviewing the tape of the team’s 26-20 loss to the New York Jets in Week 9:
All or nothing: I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen a game quite like this, where a defense looked so dominant for about 75 percent of the day -- but got burned so badly by a handful of big plays. So let’s start with some of the good things the Saints accomplished before we get into what went so wrong.
Running back Chris Ivory did most of his damage on three big runs (a 52-yarder, a 30-yarder and a 27-yarder). He also had two nice runs on an 11-yard gain and a 3-yard touchdown. Other than that, he gained a total of 16 yards on his other 13 carries.
The Saints defense was obviously intent on shutting down the run throughout the game. They often had nine men in the box, almost always leaving cornerbacks and safeties in single coverage. Inside linebacker Curtis Lofton and defensive end Akiem Hicks stood out the most often in run defense -- making several aggressive tackles.
When the Jets did pass, the Saints often blitzed since they had so many defenders attacking at the line of scrimmage.
Quarterback Geno Smith burned that blitz a handful of times (see below), but not often. He completed only 8 of 19 passes for 115 yards – including a total of 1 yard in the first quarter and zero yards in the fourth quarter. He had to throw the ball away twice under pressure during a Saints goal-line stand in the second quarter.
New York converted a total of 14 first downs in the entire game and went three-and-out five times (not including the final series when it ran out the clock).
Yet the Saints let this game run away from them because their performance wasn’t nearly consistent enough.
Ivory’s runs: I already analyzed the Saints’ breakdowns on those three game-changing runs. Click here to see what went so wrong.
Burning the blitz: Smith’s performance was not very impressive. But he came up big on back-to-back touchdown drives in the second quarter. On the first touchdown drive, he completed two clutch passes to his “hot reads” just before taking big hits from unblocked blitzers -- an 11-yarder to fullback Tommy Bohanon and a 19-yarder to receiver David Nelson. He did the same thing on the second TD drive, hitting tight end Zach Sudfeld for a 21-yard gain just before the blitz got to him.
The Jets also beat a Saints’ blitz with a well-designed 44-yard screen pass to receiver Greg Salas on a field goal drive in the third quarter.
Caught off guard: The Jets also burned the Saints with a Wildcat pass in the second quarter. Receiver Josh Cribbs delivered a beautiful 25-yard strike to Sudfeld while throwing on the run. Both Lofton and safety Rafael Bush let Sudfeld get wide open behind them while they were cheating toward Cribbs.
Don’t blame Jordan: Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan looked bad when Smith juked him to score on a 3-yard keeper in the second quarter. Jordan was actually the only Saints defender who didn’t bite on the play-action fake handoff to Ivory, and he was running full speed in pursuit of Jordan toward the sideline. Jordan didn’t stand a chance when the speedier Smith cut back to the inside. There should have been other Saints defenders there to stop him.