Saints' revamped defensive line comes up big

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One area the Saints needed to get better this season was their defensive line.

The reconfigured unit came up big against Chicago on Sunday, limiting the Bears to just 60 yards rushing in New Orleans' 30-13 victory.

Against the Bears, first-year Saints defensive tackles Aubrayo Franklin, Shaun Rogers and Mitch King teamed with Sedrick Ellis to force Chicago's offensive line into double teams.

That freed teammates, including defensive ends Turk McBride and Junior Galette along with linebackers and defensive backs to make tackles.

New Orleans sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler six times and finished with 10 quarterback hits.

Chicago was ''squeezing inside because we were getting so much push and pressure on the inside, we were getting DBs running free and we were getting linebackers running free on the outside,'' Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas said.

New Orleans did that without top pass rusher Will Smith. The Saints' defensive end missed the first two games after being suspended by the league for violating its banned substance policy.

The decision to overhaul the defensive front came after last season's playoff loss to Seattle. Saints coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams seemingly watched the Saints give up 150 yards rushing, including a 67-yard tackle-breaking touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch.

After ranking 16th against the run in 2010, the Saints signed 6-foot-4, 350-pound Rogers in March before the NFL lockout began.

In August, after the lockout ended, the Saints were able to sign Franklin away from San Francisco, where he was one of the 49ers top run stoppers in their 3-4 defense.

They've helped New Orleans become a top eight defense against the run, allowing 81.5 yards per game on the ground a season after giving up 112.3 rushing yards per game.

''I think the biggest thing is their size,'' Ellis said. ''You just have to account for those guys in the middle, especially Shaun because he's just so huge and a big guy.''

Both signed one-year contracts and came to New Orleans to win.

''That was the common denominator I heard through this process of bringing players in was, `We want to win a Super Bowl. We want the opportunity to win,' " Payton said. ''That's encouraging.''

The true test of just how much they've improved against the run will come Sunday, however, when the Saints host the Houston Texans, which boasts one of the top run games in the NFL.

New Orleans already has faced Houston once - losing 27-14 in Week 2 of the preseason - when the Texans gashed New Orleans for 208 yards rushing.

Houston's Ben Tate carried the ball nine times for 95 yards and a touchdown while Arian Foster, the reigning NFL rushing champion, had 47 yards and a touchdown on one carry.

In preparing for Sunday's game, Payton said they won't ignore that game just because it was in the preseason and instead will use it for preparation.

''I think you look at that,'' Payton said. ''That's not a pretty film. That wasn't real good.''

Tagged: Bears, Saints, Texans, Shaun Rogers, Will Smith, Mitch King

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