TAMPA — The strength of the Saints' offense is well known — its 34.9 points per game are tied for second most in the NFL — but going into the division rematch with the Bucs, New Orleans' defense has been surprisingly stout.
The Bucs handed the Saints a 48-40 loss in Week 1. New Orleans then won 10 straight before losing to Dallas last week, and while its reputation is still one of a dangerous offense anchored by quarterback Drew Brees, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said he's been impressed with the the Saints on the defensive side of the ball.
Koetter noted that New Orleans owns the top rush defense in the league, allowing just 75.4 ground yards per game.
"I haven't been following them that much, I guess; I probably wouldn't have guessed that," he said. "You don't win 10 straight in this league if you're not pretty good."
And while the Bucs' defensive resurgence has been anchored by a defensive line that has produced 15 sacks over the past four games, tied for second most in the league, Koetter noted that the only team that has more in that span is New Orleans with 20.
Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan has five sacks over his past four games, one of three New Orleans defensive linemen to record at least three sacks over the past four games. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and David Onyemata each have three sacks.
And the Saints have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. They've allowed 100 total rushing yards just three times this season.
But interesting enough, the Bucs' 112 rushing yards against the Saints in Week 1 are the most New Orleans has allowed in a game this season. In that game, running back Peyton Barber ran for 69 yards on 19 carries and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick netted 36 yards on 12 carries.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at [email protected] Follow @EddieInTheYard