METAIRIE, La. In Drew Brees' first seven years with the Saints, he was sacked on average 20 times per season.
Just seven games into the 2013 season, he's two away from that number.
The Saints are on pace to allow 41 sacks, by far a career high and 15 more than his worst season with New Orleans (2012). He has been sacked four times in three different games this year.
These aren't numbers normally associated with the NFL's No. 5 scoring offense and No. 3 passing offense.
Brees, for what it's worth, says to not look at the total number but to look at the reason behind them. Sometimes, he believes, they're not such a bad thing.
'At the end of the day, I think you would say they're a part of the game to a degree and there are times where taking a sack was the best thing that could have happened on the play based on everything that was happening around you.'
And then there's this - Brees is on pace for the second-most passing yards in his career (5,234) and second-fewest interceptions (11) in a season in which he plays at least 15 games.
But New Orleans is about to face on of the NFL's best young defensive lines in the New York Jets (noon, Sunday), part of a unit that is tied for fifth in the NFL with 25 sacks this season.
There's little question that those involved in making the Saints' offense run smoothly want the sack total to trend downward.
This season has been an aberration in looking at the Saints since Sean Payton took over in 2006. From 2006 to 2012, the Saints led the NFL in fewest sacks allowed at 148. The 26 sacks New Orleans gave up in 2012 was the most in that time.
'You don't ever want him to get hit,' right tackle Zach Strief said. 'He's the focal point of our entire team. We can't give up four sacks. We can't let him get hit like that. It's nothing that we don't work on. It's not intentional.'
All involved said it doesn't come down to one player in particular. Rather, it's a different player including Brees each time failing to complete the play as designed.
'In a span of 70 plays, you have that one minus and that one minus gets Drew hit, it's a problem and it's something that needs to be resolved,' fullback Jed Collins said.
The good news is those involved believe there are things that can be done to correct the problem before it gets any further out of hand.
'We've got to be smart about what we're asking those guys to do up front and then also, just have a little bit of variety so that it's not a steady dose of one protection or the other,' Payton said.