Today, I come to praise the New Orleans Saints defense, not bury it.
OK, I’m guilty of butchering an epic Shakespearean line but, c’mon man, the Saints defense and coordinator Dennis Allen are worthy of high praise in light of Sunday’s zany 52-38 win against the Detroit Lions at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Let me count the ways.
Don’t focus on the Lions’ 38 points, stuff happens. Instead, concentrate on the Saints’ five takeaways, four of which ultimately led to 28 points, including touchdowns by strong safety Kenny Vaccaro, rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore and defensive end Cam Jordan.
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The latter — a batted pass and interception in the end zone by Jordan with 5:04 remaining — extended the lead, short-circuited a troubling trend and saved the day, all in one dramatic play.
It also enabled the Saints to set a franchise single-game record with three defensive touchdowns.
Jordan’s heroics put a halt to the Lions’ comeback hopes from a 45-10 deficit and dotted the exclamation point on a performance that should earn him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
In addition to the pick 6, Jordan contributed five tackles, two sacks, two QB hits, three pass breakups and made life miserable for Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford. My last observation won’t show up on the NFL stat sheet but Stafford wouldn’t argue the point.
So now the Saints (3-2) are headed to Green Bay where they will face the injury-riddled Packers (4-2) at noon Sunday at venerable Lambeau Field. Third-year quarterback Brett Hundley will make his first NFL start, replacing two-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers who suffered a potentially season-ending broken collarbone against the Minnesota Vikings.
With Rodgers sidelined and Hundley under center, the national betting line has moved 12 points in some casinos, meaning the Packers have moved from early six-point favorites to six-point underdogs at home.
The Saints are favored in part because Jordan and a vastly improved Saints defense have done an about-face since falling on their faces in season-opening losses against Minnesota and New England when they yielded 65 points and 1,025 total yards.
Jordan got the ball rolling in Game 3 at Carolina, sacking quarterback Cam Newton on third-and-4 from the Saints 8-yard on the opening possession and forcing the Panthers to kick a field goal.
That bone-rattling hit on Newton set the day’s tone for a Saints defense that produced five sacks and three interceptions in a convincing 34-13 victory. A week later in London, Saints cornerback Ken Crawley ended a potential game-opening scoring threat by the Miami Dolphins with an end zone interception en route to a 20-0 win.
Now, after their breakout defensive performance against Detroit, the Saints, indeed, are praiseworthy.
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.