Greg Barber

Saints Defense Looking To Turn The Tide In Tampa

Created on Sept. 15, 2013 11:07 AM EST

Last week’s game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints was as exciting and heart-stopping as everyone figured it would be. As always, it ended up with the game being decided by the final play - thankfully for Saints fans, it ended with a win.

The Saints offense played a somewhat steady game, meaning the running game sputtered as usual and the passing game seemed a little off. In the end, it turned out to be a decent day's work, although it just did not look as smooth as we are used to seeing from New Orleans.

However, the real stars of the show was the defensive unti because of its performance for a full 60 minutes against the high-powered Falcons offense. Yes, there were a couple of big, 50-yard plays that were given up but for the most part, the Saints defense contained Atlanta QB Matt Ryan and his arsenal of playmakers.

This whole offseason, all new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and the Saints defensive players would hear was how bad they were. Of course, no one expected this defense to surrender just 17 points to the Falcons offense, but experts will soon discover that players like Cameron Jordan, Akiem Hicks, Parys Haralson, Junior Galette and Martez Wilson are for real.

There was some apprehension among Saints fans whether Ryan was the right person to turn this defense around. But there were a couple of factors that showed Ryan's defense would work with the Saints personnel. Many people point to the fact that he only ever had a Top 10 defense once, but look at the head coaches he to had to work with. If you had worked with the likes of Tom Cable, Eric Mangini and Jason Garrett, you would be considered a disappointment too.

During training camp, Ryan preached versatility and with all the injuries that have plagued the Saints defense this season, versatility will be essential in getting the Saints through them.

The Saints next game is a contest against another hated division rival in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and although they have been undisciplined and disjointed both on and off the field, do not take them lightly. With that being said, here are a few things to keep an eye on during this game:

Josh Freeman Has No Chemistry Or Rapport With His Receivers

Just sit back and watch last week's game against the Jets. If his intended receiver is covered, Freeman tends to over or under throw them. Saints fans are used to watching QB Drew Brees complete passes even when the receiver is blanketed. Freeman either lacks certain skills or just the confidence to complete passes with a defensive back on his target. It will be a surprise if Tampa Bay WRs Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson are not closely covered to make Freeman hesitate.

Freeman Has A Hard Time Reading Defenses

In the Falcons game, Rob Ryan used the big nickel in lots of different looks (2-4-5, 3-3-5 and 4-2-5) and he brought the pressure from many different areas. He probably will utilize some similar pressure schemes to keep Freeman rattled and confused. There was a time when pressuring Freeman would be dangerous because of his ability to take off and run with the ball, but that has essentially become a nonfactor in his gameplay as of late.

The Saints Defense Should Keep Doug Martin Under 100 Yards

The Saints did a great job holding Falcons RB Steven Jackson to 77 yards, 50 of which came on one play. As long as the defense plays with the same discipline, Bucs RB Doug Martin should not be a huge factor in this game.

With all the issues that the Buccaneers are currently dealing with concerning Freeman and Schiano, do not expect the Saints to take them lightly. This is the type of stuff that can galvanize a team.

Prediction: Saints 17, Buccaneers 14

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