Saints vs. Broncos: New Orleans Must Fix Miserable Defense

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterOctober 28, 2012

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 28:  Running back Willis McGahee #23 of the Denver Broncos runs through a hole during the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on October 28, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints defense is miserable, and miserable might not be a strong enough word.

The Saints dropped their Week 8 game to the Denver Broncos, 34-14, and in the process allowed Peyton Manning and the Broncos to amass 530 yards of total offense. Denver’s success wasn’t an outlier, however.

The Saints are the only team in the NFL this season to give up at least 400 yards of total offense to an opponent in every game they’ve played. They’re also the only team to have 500 or more yards pasted on them three times.

Let that sink in for a moment. There have been only 11 games that have featured an offense that posted more than 500 yards of total offense. Three of those were against the Saints.

As long as the Saints’ defense has zero ability to stop opposing offenses, there’s zero chance for this New Orleans team to make a miraculous turnaround and save their season from an 0-4 start.

In years past, even with a sub-par defense, it wasn’t too much to ask this New Orleans team to reel off nine wins in a row (the assumed magic number the Saints needed prior to Week 8 for a chance at the playoffs). In 2011 the Saints won eight in a row. In 2010 their best run was six. In 2009, the Saints won their first 13 games.

Prior to Week 8, I believed this Saints team could turn things around and rattle off the needed wins for a playoff run.

Now I’m just as firmly convinced that it would take a miracle for this team to just get to nine wins, much less win nine in a row.

The problems are everywhere on the defensive side of the ball.

There’s very little pass rush from the front four. New Orleans failed to sack Manning on Sunday and had just 13 prior to Week 8. It was very visible on numerous occasions when Manning had too much time to throw the ball. Elite quarterbacks will tear a defense up when given too much time—case in point Manning’s 305 yards and three touchdown passes.

The Saints are even struggling in the middle of the defense. Curtis Lofton was a great addition, and actually a saving grace of sorts. If he weren’t around, this linebacker corps would be far worse off.

Jonathan Vilma’s return hasn’t helped; in fact it was costly on Sunday.

The Saints aren’t about to move Lofton from middle linebacker, so they put Vilma on the outside, a position he’s never played. Vilma didn’t handle re-direction well, and the Broncos realized this quickly and ran it at him frequently.

Worst of all has been the New Orleans secondary.

Patrick Robinson was just torched on Sunday and eventually pulled himself with some sort of injury, according to CBS Sports. Prior to him leaving the game, Manning targeted him with regularity.

Targeting Robinson had been nothing new this year. Prior to the Week 8 game he’d given up more receptions (28) than any corner on the team. His 463 yards given up to receivers he’d covered was also tops on the team, and ranked third worst of any cornerback in the NFL.

It was ugly all around on Sunday for the Saints defense, and for a unit that was supposed to be much improved with the addition of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, there’s not much light at the end of this tunnel.