Forecast: Defense gives Saints most hope since 2013

I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure the Constitution’s 30th Amendment says, “If you are shut out by the New Orleans Saints defense on foreign soil you lose your right to be an American citizen.”

Sorry Miami Dolphins, your passports might not be enough to get you back in the country.

The Saints shut out the Dolphins 20-0 and flipped 2017 Louisiana football on its head. Who would have thought on October 1 that LSU football would be on verge of returning to the dark ages of Curley Hallman, while the Saints would create the most optimism their fans have had since 2013?

2017 is getting weird. The Saints backed up their stellar defensive effort in Carolina with their first shutout since 2012. From the moment Ken Crawley intercepted Jay Cutler in the end zone, the Saints looked like a top five NFL defense. The Saints defensive stat line is more beautiful than a sunrise over Jackson Square; 186 yards allowed, four sacks, and one third down conversion permitted.

Miami being a penalty-infested disaster isn’t our problem. I’m open to the possibility that maybe Minnesota and New England are just really good teams that had more to do with the Saints being 0-2 than anything. More good news for the Saints is the fact Cam Newton looked like 2015 MVP Cam Newton against New England Sunday.

The Saints defense is no longer the miracle cure to heal any offense’s troubles. I’m not ready to declare the Saints defense good, but it’s definitely not terrible, which represents incredible improvement. I’m no film expert but I’m guessing Ken Crawley isn’t going to be healthy and inactive the rest of 2017.

Marshon Lattimore might be the rarest of things; a rookie shutdown corner. He wasn’t perfect but we are two more games away from teams deciding not to throw his way. Dennis Allen has returned to the three safeties, two cornerback scheme that was the Saints best defense in 2016. The Saints have 11 sacks in four games, which means they are on pace to have the most sacks in a season (44) under Sean Payton.

It’s official people, for the first time since 2000 the Saints have a decent pass rush, and it made Jay Cutler look uncomfortable and erratic. By the way, I’ve looked more interested watching Bubble Guppies with my son than Cutler looked playing football versus the Saints. One player who was a quiet free agent pick up who is delivering excellent play is defensive end Alex Okafor. Right now he’s on pace for 60 tackles and five sacks, which would be the best defensive end the

Saints have had opposite Cam Jordan since before Junior Galette went are crazy. Okafor is three million dollars well spent.

While the defense that’s the youngest in the NFL is growing leaps and bounds before our eyes, the Saints offense seems to be finding an identity that apparently doesn’t involve Adrian Peterson. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for 29 rushes and receptions, while Peterson had four rushing attempts. If Ingram and Kamara are both healthy, who is going to get less touches so Peterson can get more? Does Kamara look like a guy the last two weeks Sean Payton is going to involve less in the offense? We are going to remember the C.J. Spiller era more fondly than Adrian Peterson’s time in New Orleans.

It’s not entirely Peterson’s fault things aren’t working because when the Saints signed him Kamara wasn’t on the roster. The Saints couldn’t have known they’d draft a dynamo running back that was a perfect fit for Sean Payton’s offense.

The Saints offense still isn’t running at peak efficiency and losing Zach Strief again won’t help, but the return of Terron Armstead and Willie Snead will. The Saints haven’t turned the ball over in four games, granted it took recovering a fumble during a play tailor made to have Benny Hill music dubbed over it for the streak to continue, but in life and football you need a little luck.

If Drew Brees continues to play this well the rest of 2017, Mickey Loomis in order to keep Drew in New Orleans is going to have to arrange Lee Circle becomes Brees Roundabout, and pay him so much money Scrooge McDuck would blush. For the record, I’m fine with Loomis doing both of those things. The Saints for the first time since 2013 head into October not with a season on the brink of collapse, but with possibilities. Enjoy these next two weeks, 2017 is looking better all of the sudden.

Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at Saintshappyhour@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SaintsForecast or download his podcast at  iTunes.

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