Most NFL fans and analysts expected that the New Orleans Saints‘ defense would be a strength entering the 2023 season. The Saints were a top-10 scoring defense in 2022 and brought back its major contributors for another go this season — and so far, so good.
New Orleans has held all three of its opponents so far to fewer than 20 points, and it could easily have a 3-0 record had Jordan Love not led a late rally to guide the Green Bay Packers to an 18-17 win on Sunday. Even still, the 18 points allowed keeps the Saints in contention to equal one of Bill Belicheck‘s records for defensive excellence in Week 4.
A run not seen since 1995
If the Saints hold the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to under 20 points in New Orleans on Sunday, they will have equaled a record held by Belicheck‘s Cleveland Browns for most consecutive games holding an opponent to under 20 points.
Belicheck may have gained global fame for coaching the New England Patriots to six Super Bowl titles, but he coached a mean defense in Cleveland between 1991 and 1995. Between the 1994 and 1995 seasons, the Browns held 12 consecutive opponents to 20 points or less — a mark that the Saints can tie if they flummox Baker Mayfield in the Caesars Superdome.
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The key figures behind a dominant defense
The Saints are trying to record a fourth consecutive season with a top-10 scoring defense, and they already appear to be well on their way.
New Orleans‘ 50 points allowed through three weeks ranks sixth in the NFL. The Saints have allowed only two touchdowns through the air, a testament to the efforts of players such as second-year cornerback Alontae Taylor (seven passes defended, four tackles for loss), Marshon Lattimore, and Tyrann Mathieu. Pass rushers Demario Davis and Cameron Jordan add leadership and veteran experience to a group that Mayfield will have to find ways around in Week 4.