Saints performing better after bye week
Saints fans are back to celebrating after a decisive win over the Buffalo Bills after a much needed bye week, which wasn't quite enough time to dissipate the taste of tough loss to New England in the final seconds.
The Black and Gold are 6-1 on the season and 2nd in the NFC Playoff Standings, just behind the 7-1 Seattle Seahawks.
Credit the success so far this season to some high-powered moves by the offense and defense, where defensive coordinator Rob Ryan seems to have perfected the art of maximizing his players potential.
After allowing a season-high 30 points to the Patriots, the Saints "D" bounced back versus Buffalo with four sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception. Ryan's unit also held Buffalo to 17 points: the sixth time this season the Saints defense has held an opponent below 20 points. The Saints, in fact, are 4th in the NFL in points allowed per game with 17.1.
"I would say definitely it's encouraging, we're playing better," head coach Sean Payton said. "The players are playing with more confidence, and I'm not going to define, grade, use words like exceptional. I'm going to say, week to week, we're encouraged, yet there are a number of things that we can do better."
Some of those things would surely include the Black and Gold's 8 penalties for 59 yards, plus the surprising challenge of moving the correct personnel packages on and off the field.
While fans are reveling in the 5 scoring strikes delivered by quarterback Drew Brees, including 3 red zone thrillers, players are lamenting a larger picture. Offensive Tackle Zack Strief is not pleased with the Black and Gold's overall red zone performance, where the team is averaging less than 2 scores a game, 13th in the league.
"We played the Lions and scored on eight of nine possessions and fumbled on the two," Strief said. "We came in the locker room and said we could have scored on that other possession if we don't turn the ball over. There's always something, I think early in the game, the early turnover that the defense forces and then we go in, go backwards, miss a kick, and get nothing out of it. You can't have those negative plays. I think, more than anything, negative plays have derailed us more than anything else and that's frustrating. It starts up front and, again, it's the same conversation we have in our meeting rooms."
In all though, Saints fans have to be encouraged and excited with how their team performed Sunday after a week of rest, especially given the complementary football this team is playing, much like they did during the 2009 Saints Super Bowl run.
Consider the Saints turnover differential: New Orleans has 15 defensive takeaways and are +8 for the season, which is good for 3rd in the league.
"There's a real good complementary back and forth," Payton said. "I think our players understand when we say that. I don't know that many people understand that, but there's a lot that goes into playing well on defense and playing well on offense. Those categories that we talk about every week, so each week there's a different challenge. This week we'll have one on the road.
The Saints are heading North to take on the New York Jets this Sunday at Metlife Stadium.