File this under the so close, yet so far column...
Steve Spagnuolo, in his first year as Saints defensive coordinator, said the coaches did a lot of self scouting during last week's bye. One of these sessions included a look at the defense.
Spagnuolo said the defense has run 172 plays, with more than half of its surrendered 864 yards allowed in just 20 plays. It's not an excuse, he said, but more of an example of how the unit, despite its ranking, is within reach of playing like it wants to play - if he can eliminate the big rushing plays that have changed games against Washington, Kansas City and Carolina.
"We talked about that this morning as a defense," Spagnuolo said Monday. "We’re not that far off, and yet you can’t allow those explosive plays because they lead to bad things."
Rookie Doug Martin (76 yards) and LeGarrette Blount (58 yards) helped Tampa Bay - this week's opponent - finish with 145 rushing yards during Sunday's 38-10 rout of Kansas City.
"I thought they ran the ball pretty good," Spagnuolo said. "They ran the ball for 145 yards. That can’t be lost on us. That’s a team that really wants to run the football."
We'll see what Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton has to say about the Buccaneers running game on Sunday.
Meanwhile, here's a list of the Top 8 running plays allowed by the Saints defense in 2012:
Third Quarter: 2-10-WAS 36 - Alfred Morris left end pushed ob at NO 46 for 18 yards
Second Quarter: 1-10-CAR 42 - Brandon LaFell right end to NO 33 for 25 yards
Third Quarter: 1-10-NO 44 - DeAngelo Williams left end pushed ob at NO 17 for 27 yards
vs. Kansas City
Third Quarter: 1-10-KC 9 - Jamaal Charles left end for 91 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Third Quarter: 1-10-KC 47 - Charles right tackle to NO 13 for 40 yards
Fourth Quarter: 1-10-KC 30 - Charles left guard to KC 44 for 14 yards
vs. San Diego
First Quarter: 1-10-SD 6 - Ryan Mathews left end to SD 24 for 18 yards
Second Quarter: 1-10-SD 14 - Ronnie Brown right guard to SD 35 for 21 yards