More times than not this season, Saints fans have not had to hold their breath when their beloved Black and Gold defense is on the field with the game on the line. Simply put, the Saints defense is for real, and they have been that way since they stopped the Falcons from scoring late during the first game of the season.
Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan has transformed one of the worst defense units in the history of the NFL into a legit, hard nose physical defense. “If Coach Rob Ryan is not the assistant coach of the year, I would like to see someone that has done a better job than Coach Ryan has done,” said Bobby Hebert.
The Saints improved to 8-2 on the season and remained perfect at home in the Superdome with a 23-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers. The defense set the tone from the first snap of the game, and then finished with a flurry in the final quarter.
San Francisco ran 11 plays in the first quarter of the game for a total of 18 yards. Then, on their final two drives of the game, the Saints defense shut down the 49ers. San Francisco got the ball with 7:50 left in the game, protecting a 20-17 lead.
The Saints forced a three-and-out as the 49ers gained just one yard and were forced to punt. New Orleans then got the ball back and went on to tie the game at 20-20 on a 42-yard field goal from Garrett Hartley.
The Saints defense then came up big again. With the score tied at 20-20, the Saints defense held the 49ers to seven yards on three plays, forcing another three-and-out. On that drive, Junior Gallette sacked San Fran QB Colin Kaepernick for a nine yard loss.
So if you add that up, the 49ers last two drives netted them 8 yards of offense on six plays with two punts. And if you subtract the nine yard loss caused by Gallette’s sack then San Fran was minus 1 in yards on their last two drives of the game!
Once the Saints defense gave the ball back to their offense, New Orleans went on a game-winning drive as Garrett Hartley nailed a 31-yard field goal to give the Saints a 23-20 win. Coach Sean Payton talked about his team playing complementary football before training camp began back in late July; right now, the Saints are playing good in all phases of the game.
The numbers are even prettier for the Black and Gold defense. San Francisco averaged 148 yards rushing per game through nine games this season. The Saints held the 49ers to just 81 yards in the game.
San Francisco had 10 offensive possessions. Six of those 10 possessions ended in punts, including five three-and-outs. RB Frank Gore gained 48 yards on 13 carries. But I’ll break down the numbers for you like the coaches do in their team meetings: Mr. Gore had one carry for 24 yards. So, on his other 12 carries Gore gained just 24 yards for an average of just two yards per rush. People, that is damn good defense, and if you still believe that defense wins championships, then this Black and Gold defense is that caliber.
On seven of the 49ers ten offensive possessions, the Saints defense limited their foes to 12 yards or less, including five drives where the Saints defense held the 49ers to five yards or less. Sure, you can point out a bad play here or there on defense, but the overall body of work produced another win. And it was another win in which the Saints defense dominated the team on the other side of the football.