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It's November - November. There's something in the Gulf and there's nothing in the Saints' loss column. That's September, isn't it?

Start fast. Finish strong. It's been the Saints' formula for success. But not in the last three games when the Saints have started slowly but overcome that with an extremely strong finish.

Sunday, through much of the first half, Drew Brees was having a worse game than an SEC official. But as he had in the previous two wins over the Dolphins and Falcons, he presided over a second half rally in which he was harder to control than a day-old haircut. In the last three fourth quarters the Saints have out-scored their opponents 22-0, 7-6, and 10-0.

14 of those points have been scored by the defense - a defense the NFL-ranked 15th overall going into Sunday's game - 11th against the run and 17th against the pass - middle-of-the-pack, average defense using those statistics that are only based on yards surrendered.

'Surface Statistics' one analyst called them in an e-mail that he sent me prior to Sunday's game. He suggested we look more deeply into what this Saints' defense truly is.

As he pointed out, the Saints had surrendered unimpressive yardage totals because of the Saints' offense. Because that offense which was number one in the league going into Sunday's game scores so quickly, scores so much, and has recently turned the ball over so frequently, the Saints' defense had taken the field more often than any other defense in the league. Hence, more opportunities to surrender yards than any other defense in the league had to endure.

But look beneath the surface at where the Saints defense ranked in 'sub-surface statistics.'

Interceptions. #1
passes defended. #1
opposing passer rating. #1
defensive touchdowns scored. #1
completion percentage by opposing passer. #1
third down percentage. #1
turnover differential. #4
passing yards surrendered per attempt. #4
red zone defense. #5

On the surface Sean Payton should be considered one of the favorites for NFL Coach of the Year. And he should. He may be.

But if you look below the surface, the Coach of the Year may not be one of the 32 head coaches in the NFL. The Coach of the Year may be standing next to Sean Payton on the Saints sideline.

Write-in candidate any one?

And remember, that's 'Gregg' with three g's.

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