Brian Allee-Walsh

No offense, but New Orleans Saints don’t spell defense with a ‘D’

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin reaches out to attempt a catch of a pass by quarterback Cam Newton as Saints defensive back Ken Crawley applies pressure on Sunday, Oct. 16, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin reaches out to attempt a catch of a pass by quarterback Cam Newton as Saints defensive back Ken Crawley applies pressure on Sunday, Oct. 16, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. TNS

Victory Monday has passed.

The 24-hour celebratory rule has expired.

It’s Reality Wednesday.

Question: Have you ever seen such a disparity in terms of production between an offensive unit and defensive unit as the one that exists on the 2016 New Orleans Saints?

The team truly is an enigma.

One may not find such a monumentally wide chasm in productivity on those two sides of the football anywhere else on God’s green earth.

The offense and Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback Drew Brees are strikingly efficient, averaging 31.0 points and 413.4 yards per game, trailing only Atlanta league-wide in both statistical categories. The no-name injury-depleted defense is inexplicably bad, averaging a league-high 33.6 points and a second-worst 419.4 yards per game.

Let me put the ’16 Saints defensive unit in perspective. Consider:

▪ Road teams have scored at least 25 points against the Saints in eight consecutive games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. This includes the Saints’ victorious 41-38 shootout Sunday against the free-falling Carolina Panthers.

▪ Eight road opponents have combined to score 304 points and average 38.0 points per game. AT HOME! Mind-boggling.

▪ By comparison, the 1991 Saints defense that featured the Dome Patrol, which was led by Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Rickey Jackson and fellow Saints Hall of Fame linebackers Sam Mills, Vaughan Johnson and Pat Swilling, put together a six-game stretch for the ages.

▪ In Games 2 through 7 of that season, the Saints allowed a grand total of 36 points against Kansas City (10), the Los Angeles Rams (7), Minnesota (0), Atlanta (6), Philadelphia (6) and Tampa Bay (7).

▪ Of those 36 points, only two offensive touchdowns were scored against the Saints’ defense, both coming through the air.

Now that ’91 defense was special. In addition to the aforementioned linebacking corps, the unit under defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell featured down linemen Wayne Martin, Jim Wilks and Frank Warren and defensive backs Vince Buck, Toi Cook, Brett Maxie and Gene Atkins.

I understand that the game is played differently in today’s NFL. There was no restrictive salary cap 25 years ago. It’s a quarterback-driven league today, and the rules generally favor the offense and put the defense at a decided disadvantage.

But there are some teams that play good defense — Seattle, Minnesota, Baltimore, Denver, Arizona and others.

In ’91, the Saints entered each game thinking if the defense could hold their opponent to 17 or fewer points, they would win. This season, I suspect the offense might feel it has to score a minimum of 35 points to have a chance to win on a weekly basis.

That’s a lot to ask, even for a Drew Brees-led offense.

Brian Allee-Walsh is a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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