New Orleans’ defense (2-1) will surely follow the same blueprint Sunday at the Superdome that they’ve used thus far.
Scott Threlkeld/The Times-PicayuneThe New Orleans Saints defense has been good at times against the run.
The Saints haven’t exactly been bad against the run, but they’ve been inconsistent while going up against a series of run-heavy teams in Minnesota, San Francisco and Atlanta. They’ve allowed 145 rushing yards per game, 30th in the league, though they rank a more respectable 19th in the league in yards allowed per carry (4.39).
Last season, the Saints allowed 122.2 yards per game (21st in the NFL) and 4.49 yards per carry (26th).
“I think it’s improved from last year,” Ayodele said. “I mean, of course it can be better. Right now we’re not looking too good, of course, with the numbers. But watching the film, our fits are a lot better than they were last year.
“Last year (those breakaway runs) would happen at least twice a game. And we’ve cut down on that.”
True, the Saints have allowed only one run of more than 20 yards — a 32-yarder by Atlanta’s Michael Turner in the third quarter of last Sunday’s 27-24 overtime loss. But they have allowed teams to chip away at them on the ground. Last week, the Falcons ran the ball 50 times against the Saints for 202 yards.
The Saints were actually doing a great job of containment for much of the afternoon. The Falcons were averaging just 2.6 yards per carry at halftime. But the Saints kept allowing Atlanta to convert on third and fourth downs, and eventually the Falcons started to wear them down.
Backup tailback Jason Snelling added a 17-yard run in the third quarter, followed by a 17-yard Turner run in the fourth quarter and a 13-yard Matt Ryan scramble in overtime.
The Falcons ran for 51 yards on their winning, 12-play field-goal drive in overtime.
“I think there were times we were really good, I think there were times we were bad,” Saints linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said of the Saints’ run defense against Atlanta. “You know, if we would have gotten off the field on third down, that would have helped a lot. We just need to be consistent.”
Saints defensive ends Alex Brown and Will Smith did a particularly good job of containment against the Falcons, especially early in the game.
“But I don’t think you’ll find any gratitude or any positive in giving up 200 yards rushing,” Brown said. “I don’t find any in it. I think we definitely have to get better. We’re not where we want to be.”
The Saints made the Falcons work hard on all five of their scoring drives Ñ a nine-play touchdown drive, a 19-play touchdown drive, an 11-play field-goal drive, a nine-play touchdown drive and the winning 12-play field-goal drive.