Sharper compares Saints defenses

January, 5, 2014
Jan 5
6:00
PM ET
PHILADELPHIA -- I ran into former New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper after the Saints’ 26-24 playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. And I asked him which defense is better – the Saints’ 2013 version or the 2009 version that Sharper was on when they won the Super Bowl.

“This one’s more stout,” said Sharper, who now works as an analyst for NFL Network. “They don’t make as many big plays, but they’re more stout up front. They’ll play more games like they did tonight. But we’ll blow more teams out because we forced more turnovers and made more big plays.”

Earlier this year, heading into the Saints’ first trip to Seattle, Sharper said he believes the Saints are better built to win on the road than ever before because of their defense.

He wasn’t right on that particular night. But he was eventually proven right when the Saints finally won their first road playoff game in franchise history on Saturday night.

The defense was the main reason the Saints stayed in the game in the first half, trailing only 7-3 after quarterback Drew Brees threw two early interceptions. Then the Saints’ offense finally took over. Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan was again the biggest impact player for the Saints, making several plays behind the line of scrimmage. But he wasn’t alone.

Everyone was outstanding in run defense against dangerous running back LeSean McCoy, who finished with a manageable 77 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries, plus just 15 receiving yards on four receptions.

“With the Eagles having the leading rusher in the league, we needed to stop him. We needed to hold up and get the ball to our offense,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “I thought our front line on defense did a great job. When the running back did get through, we were able to not allow him to break big runs. We did not want to have a lot of one-on-one tackles against McCoy.”

Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis was also playing great – holding dangerous receiver DeSean Jackson without a catch deep into the third quarter – until Lewis left with a concussion.

The Eagles started to pick on the Saints’ secondary after that. So obviously the Saints will be much better off if Lewis is able to return to the field this week. There were no updates immediately available on his status, since he’ll obviously have to go through the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Mike Triplett

ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter

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