BAYHAM: Saints’ Defense Saves The Day, Again

Attention Who Dat Nation; you are not allowed to speak ill of Rob Ryan anymore.

And this has nothing to do with him having bought a round of drinks for customers at a local dive last week.

I don’t care that he looks like an extra from a Thor movie. I don’t care that he looks like he’s shoplifting an office fridge under his shirt.

I do care that he has been able to get his safeties to pick off opposing quarterbacks in consecutive games this early in the 2013 season.

While driving home from Dallas last Christmas Eve a day removed from the Saints’ triumph in Jerry Jones’s palace, I listened to the sports talk radio programs that analyzed the Cowboys’ weakness at defense. The consensus was that the team had a good coach with bad talent due to injuries.

Remember when strong safety Roman Harper and (I cannot stress this conjunction enough) free safety Malcolm Jenkins went an entire season without a single pick between them?

They’re making big plays now and in the case of Harper not as an honorary linebacker on quarterback blitzes.

Admittedly the Tampa Bay game was not great for the front seven, which had applied a great deal of pressure on Matt Ryan last Sunday.

That former Saint guard Carl Nicks was out for Tampa should have meant getting after quarterback Josh Freeman should have been easier.

Instead the Saints only got one sack on the day, courtesy of defensive end Cameron Jordan, who has played up to expectations, in contrast to his fellow 2011 first round selection.

Granted the Saints secondary got lucky with some drops by wide receiver Vincent Jackson and gave up some big plays via Freeman “can of corn” passes to wide open Buccaneers, though the front seven could be held equally responsible for allowing the Tampa quarterback to have so much time.

Regardless of whether it was due to the Saints’ defensive talent or oops moments by the Tampa offense or a combination of the both, the fact is that the Black and Gold “D” only surrendered one score.

Compared to some of the track meets in the past the Saints’ offense has been burdened with having to win to compensate for a weak defensive unit, it’s reassuring to see an injury-depleted defense showing the wherewithal to step up and bail out the offense and dare I say the head coach (welcome back Sean!) from their mistakes.

Shifting from exceeding expectations to failing to meet them is the offense and its de facto coordinator Sean Payton.

The Saints’ offensive line is no longer the same group of men who won Madden awards in 2009 and 2011, and they’ve showed it, providing quarterback Drew Breeds with less protection than he is accustomed to enjoying and not helping the team’s running game either.

But the biggest blunder was Payton’s decision to trade three points that kicker Garrett Hartley had already put on the board in exchange for one last head smack against the stonewall by running back Mark Ingram.

Rather than get into a discussion into Ingram here, I’ll just take issue with Payton trading three points in hand for what’s behind curtain #22.

It’s obvious Ingram can’t play better but Payton should have known better.

Despite the poor play and poor play calls, the Saints escaped this bad weather encounter in Tampa with a divisional win, thanks to Hartley, an overachieving defense, the receiving tandem of Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham, Brees when it really counted and an amazingly undisciplined Buccaneer team that gave away their second straight game with accumulated penalties that stretched the length of the football field.

It truly was a team(s) effort.

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