I guess only time will tell, but by looking at the numbers and at the Saints’ 7-9 record, you would have to consider year one under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo a season that did not produce a passing grade for the Black and Gold defense.
The 2012 Saints defense will go down in the record books for all the wrong reasons. While the 2011 Saints offense piled up over 7,400 yards, setting an NFL record, in 2012 the Saints defense became the first to open their own club…as they are the first and only defense to allow over 7,000 yards this season. They finished by allowing a total of 7,042 yards, also a league record.
DE Will Smith said that the Saints being called the “worst defense in the National Football League” was not accurate. Don't players and coaches say you are what your record says you are? And if so don't the numbers show that the Saints defense was the worst in league history? It is what it is right?
The irony here is that exactly one season after the New Orleans Saints offense set the NFL record for most yards gained in a single season the Saints defense would go on to do the very same this season after as the Black and Gold defense allowed the most yards by any defense in league history in 2012.
During the 2012 season three players would be named the offensive player of the week for their performance against the Black and Gold defense. In fact, three of the first four weeks of the season an opposing player picked up “player of the week” honors after lighting up the Saints defense.
First up was rookie QB Robert Griffin III, making his debut in the NFL with a huge day. RG3 totaled 362 yards of offense in the Redskins’ 40-32 win over the Saints. Griffin looked as cool as the other side of the pillow in the pocket as he completed 19-of-26 passes for 320 yards and 2 TD’s.
Next up was Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles, named the AFC Offensive Player of the week as he rushed for 233 yards and one TD on 33 carries in the Chiefs’ 27-24 overtime win over the Saints.
And in week four of the season Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers was named the NFC Offensive Player of the week as he shredded the Saints defense to the tune of 319 yards. Rodgers completed 31-of-41 pass attempts for 319 yards with four TD’s and only one interception.
Moving forward, many fans are still wondering if the current Saints players have learned the defensive scheme that has been implemented by first year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. So as we begin to review the 2012 season, let’s start with the Saints weakest part of their team, which is obviously their defense.
Total Yards allowed: 7,042. The Saints were flat out horrible when it came to yards allowed and the numbers say so. The Saints gave up 400 or more yards in 12 of their 16 games and the Saints allowed 500 or more yards in four games this season as well.
The “Big Easy” title was ever so right when it came to the Saints defense as it was easy for opposing offensive units to gain yards during the 2012 season. It was not until the Saints’ eleventh game of the season that they held an opponent under the 400-yard mark, and that came in a 31-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Dome Thanksgiving Weekend.
The Saints gave up 500 or more yards in four games this season. The lowly KC Chiefs embarrassed the Saints defense by gaining 510 yards in a 27-24 overtime win over New Orleans in the third week of the season.
In a win the Saints allowed a then season-high 513 yards of offense against the Bucs in week six of the season. The Saints did win that game with a 35-28 victory over Tampa Bay as the club improved to 2-4 on the season with a road win.
And the final 500 yards allowance came when the Saints traveled to Denver to face the Broncos and QB Peyton Manning. The Broncos gashed the Saints for 530 yards of offense which was a season high of yards allowed by the Black and Gold defense this season.
The Saints allowed on average 440.1 yards per game in 2012.
Total Points Allowed: 454. The Saints gave up a total of 454 points this season. The points allowed is an average of 28.4 points per game which is a franchise record, as well as points allowed per game in a single season.
The Saints allowed 30 or more points in seven games this season, and the New York Giants scored 52 points in a 52-27 win over New Orleans. The loss to the Giants marked just the fourth time in franchise history the Saints allowed 50 or more points in a game, and the first time in the Sean Payton era the Saints allowed that many points.
The season's low point? It's a tie! I’d have to call the lowest point of the season for the Saints defense a three-way tie. The 52 points allowed in a 52-27 loss to the Giants was certainly bad, but we have to remember that the Saints allowed under 400 yards of offense in that game. NY had many short fields to work with as the Saints allowed a franchise record 287 kick return yards and 306 yards total on kick returns and punt returns.
But even that was not as low as what transpired in the Saints third game of the season as the visiting Kansas City Chiefs would embarrass the Saints in front of their own fans. Down 24-6 with 5:36 left in the third quarter of the game it looked as if the Saints would pick up their first win of the season.
However, in the blink of an eye, a 91-yard run would turn things into the favor of the Chiefs as they rallied for an overtime win over the Saints. Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles would go on to rush for 233 yards, the second-most in franchise history.
And then the Saints saved their “best” for last in the final week of the regular season as they played host to the 6-9 Carolina Panthers. The Saints were trying to end the season with a three-game win streak but instead were flat-out embarrassed once again as they set another record.
The Saints D allowed 44 points and 530 yards of offense in their blowout loss to the Panthers. If the Panthers had not taken a knee at the end of the game, they would have gained more than the 530 yards which tied a season high allowed by the Saints this season.
Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams gashed the Saints, rushing for 210 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns. Williams averaged an incredible 10 yards per rushing attempt against the Saints. Williams must smile each time he plays the Saints… in 2012 DW averaged eight yards per carry as he gained a total of 279 yards on 35 carries with three TD’s in two meetings against the Saints D this year.
With a record-setting defense there are going to be plenty of features done on the worst defense in the history of the National Football League. And as the off-season begins for the Saints, I guess the biggest question is whether the Saints have picked up the scheme that Coach Spags wants to use. And I hope that they have NOT, because if they have, it makes this season far worse than the record-setting numbers that this defense allowed in 2012.
So whenever the king that makes up the rules as he goes allows coach Payton to return to work, it will be very interesting to see what notes Sean has been taking and what changes he will make as soon as he’s back in the building!
Photo by Chris Bennett