Saints learn how opposing defenses must've felt

Associated Press Modified: November 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm •  Published: November 1, 2012
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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — The New Orleans Saints are learning how opposing defenses must've felt the past few years.

Picked apart.

Run over.

Beaten down.

The Saints' defense is on pace for a truly historic season, and that's not a good thing. They have already become the first team since at least 1950 — maybe ever — to give up more than 400 yards in seven straight games. On average, they've surrendered 50 yards more per game than the NFL's next-worst team. If this keeps up, the defending NFC South champions will obliterate the record for most yards allowed in a season.

Not surprisingly, the Saints (2-5) are in a truly desperate state heading into Monday night's game against Philadelphia (3-4), knowing they must turn things around — and quickly — if they want to have a shot at a fourth straight playoff appearance.

"It's very frustrating," linebacker Scott Shanle said Thursday. "Everybody is trying to put their finger on what's wrong. How can we change it so we're more effective? You get millions of different people with millions of different suggestions, whether it be teammates, coaches, family, friends. Everybody thinks they have the answer."

But don't expect a major overhaul. According to interim coach Joe Vitt, there's only so much the team can do to turn things around, and it's not exactly eye-catching stuff. Better tackling. Improved fundamentals. More awareness of what the other team is trying to do.

"If you have dramatic change, radical change, that's when the panic sets in," Vitt said. "The players can smell the match burning before the match is ever lit. We've just got to play better, coach better, execute better."

Those sort of comments can't be of much solace to a fan base that already was reeling from the bounty scandal that cost former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams his job and resulted in head coach Sean Payton being suspended for the entire year. Williams was replaced by Steve Spagnuolo, who has caught much of the blame for what's gone wrong this season.

And, boy, have things gone wrong.

In the very first game, rookie Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins ran wild in the Superdome, shredding the Saints for 459 yards in a 40-32 upset that was an ominous sign of what was to come.

The yards just kept on coming. Carolina and Kansas City won their only games against New Orleans, ripping off 463 and 510 respectively. Green Bay put up 421, San Diego 427. Tampa Bay — hardly an offensive juggernaut — tore through the Saints for 513. Last Sunday night, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos looked like they were going against a scout team, piling up 530 yards in 34-14 blowout.

That averages out to 474.7 yards per game, which is 50 yards more than the next-worst team on the list, the Buffalo Bills (424.6). The Saints are on pace to give up 7,595 yards for the season, which would easily take down the record of 6,793 set way back in 1981 by the Colts (when they were still in Baltimore).