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Where Do New Orleans Saints Rank Amongst Worst Defenses in NFL History?

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 23: Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints talks with his team during a timeout against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 23, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Jesse ReedCorrespondent IOctober 1, 2012

The New Orleans Saints have one of the worst defenses in NFL history through Week 4, but where do they rank among the worst of the worst?

Surprisingly, the Saints aren't the only team to allow historic numbers to opposing teams this year. The Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills have all allowed more points to their opponents thus far in 2012, but none can compare to the outrageous amount of yardage allowed by the Saints.

Let's take a look at a few different angles upon which to determine just where the Saints rank among the all-time worst defenses in league history.

 

Yards Allowed

Since 1940, only one team—the 2011 New England Patriots—has given up more yards to opposing offenses through four weeks than the 2012 Saints. 

Here's where the Saints rank in this category, per Pro Football Reference:

Rank Team Year Yards Allowed
1 Patriots 2011 1910
2 Saints 2012 1853
3 Bears 2011 1703
4 Titans  2012 1686
5 Buccaneers 2012 1675

 

It's clear from this chart that defenses have given up more yardage in the past couple of years than ever before. Furthermore, you have to go down to No. 10 to find a team that isn't from the past two years, and only three of 20 were from years before 2011. 

Offenses are surging more than ever before in the modern NFL. But that fact doesn't do anything to gloss up just how bad the Saints have been thus far, and here's one reason why: run defense.

 

Rushing Yards Allowed

No team in NFL history has allowed more yards on the ground through four weeks than the Saints. 

Given the way offenses have surged in recent years—especially passing the ball—it's understandable that defenses are giving up more yards than ever before, but you'd expect most of those yards to be given up through the air. 

The Saints have allowed an astonishing 747 yards through four games—an average of 186.8 yards per game. 

Rank Team Year Rushing Yards Allowed
1 Saints 2012 747
2 Rams 2011 719
3 Bills 2010  696
4 Jets 2012 691
5 Raiders 2010 648

 

The Saints are atrocious against the run, which is the most critical aspect of playing defense. Elite defenses always shut down opponents' running games.

As you can see from the chart above, the 2011 Patriots aren't in the top five in this category. In fact, that defense had only given up 435 yards through four weeks—a fact that had a lot to do with the team's 3-1 record. 

The Saints have yet to win a game, and a big reason for this is that their defense has allowed a bunch of points. 

 

Points Allowed

The Saints aren't even the worst team this year in this category. According to TeamRankings.com, the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans have all allowed opposing offenses more points than the Saints in 2012. 

Still, the Saints are averaging 30.2 points per game to opposing offenses. (This isn't a simple average of the total points scored against the Saints. These rankings factor in scores by special teams and defense.)

Before this year, the worst defense in the history of the NFL was the 1966 New York Giants, who allowed 35.8 yards per game to opposing offenses, according to MCubed.net.

If the Saints continue on their current trend, they would rank No. 15 on this list, right behind the 1984 Minnesota Vikings and 1980 Saints.

 

Conclusion

Yes, the Saints are horrible on defense, but it's not time to crown them as the worst defense in NFL history...yet.

It's important to remember that this team is in a terrible state of flux right now and that the defense—once led by Gregg Williams—is being led by Steve Spagnuolo now. 

There's a chance this unit will start to pull together and play with some semblance of unity going forward in 2012. 

For now, though, it's safe to say that there is much room for improvement. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78

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