- Kieran Darcy, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The way Joe Vitt talked about the Giants on Wednesday, you'd think Big Blue was practically unbeatable -- not a team that's lost three of its past four games.
Vitt on Tom Coughlin: "Obviously after last year’s Super Bowl, I think he secured his place in the Hall of Fame."
Vitt on Eli Manning: "I don’t know of a quarterback in the National Football League right now that’s really as accurate as he is."
Vitt on the Giants' pass rush: "I think they’re about the most consistent pass rush over the long haul over the last four or five years."
But the Saints are also struggling -- 5-7 overall, and coming off back-to-back losses to the 49ers and Falcons, which put their postseason hopes in serious jeopardy.
(If the playoffs began today, the Seahawks would get the last NFL wild card spot, at 7-5. And there are five other teams ahead of the Saints, too. The Redskins, Cowboys, Buccaneers and Vikings are all 6-6, while the Rams are 5-6-1.)
Vitt did not want to talk about the playoffs, or potentially playing a spoiler role against the Giants, in a conference call with New York reporters. "We’re looking to win a football game," Vitt said. "No more, no less."
It's been a very different year for Vitt. The Saints' linebackers coach was thrust into the role of head coach when Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season by the NFL, in the wake of the bounty scandal.
Vitt had to serve a six-game suspension himself, but has been in charge for New Orleans' past six games.
"It’s been difficult. It’s been very difficult," Vitt said. "Number one, (Sean's) my friend, first. Number two, he’s my head coach, second. Nothing has taken the place of my relationship with him. It’s like a giant hole in my chest. I think we both kind of look at the calendar and see that there’s four weeks left in the regular season, and he’s due to come back here at the conclusion of the playoffs, but it’s been extremely difficult. I can’t even imagine what he’s going through."
Everyone knows about the Saints' prolific offense, led by quarterback Drew Brees. But the Saints' defense is ranked dead last in the NFL, having given up 5,286 total yards through 12 games.
The Saints' defensive coordinator is the Giants' former D-coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, in his first year with the team after losing his job as head coach of the Rams.
But Coughlin, Spagnuolo's former boss, was quick to point out in his Wednesday news conference that the Saints gave up just 283 total yards in last week's loss to the Falcons. And Vitt sounded optimistic about his defense, too.
"Last week was probably one of our best defensive performances of the year," Vitt said. "Spags has done a great job of keeping this team together. Spags has done a great job of keeping the morale of our defense at a high level. He’s done an outstanding job of being patient teaching this defense and I think it’s starting to show now."
2dDan Graziano and Adam Caplan