Chargers vs. Saints: Defense Sparks First New Orleans Win of 2012

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterOctober 8, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 07:  Cornerback Corey White #24 of the New Orleans Saints hits quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers as he throws the ball in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

On the way to their first win of the season, the New Orleans Saints didn’t fix too many of the issues that plagued them through four winless weeks prior.

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 354 yards as the Saints pass defense remained slightly more than a small speed bump on the gridiron asphalt.

The Saints running game was still nonexistent, for the most part. Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles combined for 55 rushing yards on 19 carries, just under three yards per carry.

But one area where the Saints wreaked havoc on Sunday Night Football, one area where the Saints had failed to make an impact through the first quarter of the season, was the pass rush.

New Orleans was ranked No. 27 in the NFL with just six sacks heading into its Week 5 game against the Chargers. On Sunday, the Saints almost doubled their season-long output by bringing down Rivers five times. It was the defensive gut check late in the game that helped New Orleans to its first win.

Four of the five Saints sacks came in the second half. Three were in the last six and a half minutes of the football game. In a game where the Saints were behind by 10 points in the third quarter, the New Orleans defense sparked a momentum shift that led to 17 unanswered points to end the game.

It seems unbelievable that the defense could be lauded in a game where the opposing quarterback threw for 354 yards. But most of those yards came in the first half, before the defense stepped up. Rivers only added 142 second-half yards to his 212-yard first-half performance.

The Saints also kept Rivers from throwing a touchdown pass in the second half, and even picked him off late in the game.

With 5:45 left to play, Roman Harper picked off Rivers and returned the ball 41 yards to the San Diego 23-yard line. Not only was it Harper’s first interception of the season, according to WWL-TV, Harper bought the safety position some pride.

After the game, interim head coach Aaron Kromer gave the defense, especially the front four, a lot of the credit, according to WWL-TV.

“You really have to give credit to our defense today getting pressure on the quarterback,” said Kromer in his postgame press conference.

The win goes to show that even a minimal improvement on defense (yes, the Saints notched five sacks, but the Chargers offense still rolled off yardage almost at will) can make the difference between winning and losing.

Now, if the Saints can find a way to bolster their running game while keeping every other phase of the game clicking like it was in the second half, New Orleans can get back to that playoff run it planned before the four-week hiatus.