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John DeShazier: Curtis Lofton has been defensive rock for Saints

Posted Oct 23, 2014

He had 18 tackles against Lions

Hidden in the shadows of a poor won-loss record (2-4) and low defensive rankings (fifth-most points allowed per game at 27.5, 21st in yards allowed per game with 373.7) for the New Orleans Saints is the fact that linebacker Curtis Lofton has been top notch this season.

With a season-high 18 tackles against Detroit – including a season high 15 solos – Lofton is up to 75 tackles this season, a pace that would shatter his career high (167 in 2011) and give him 100-plus tackles every year of his seven-season career.

More, though, Lofton looks to be playing as well as he ever has, leading a defense that’s attempting to find its footing this season. The Saints played their best overall defensive game of the season on Sunday in a 24-23 loss to Detroit, limiting the Lions to 344 yards while producing two interceptions and three sacks.

A 73-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate accounted for 21 percent of Detroit’s total offense.

“I feel like I go out every single week and take care of my business and do my job,” Lofton said. “I feel like I do that every single week.

“For me, I don’t really care about personal success. It’s all about the team. When the team succeeds, that’s when I succeed. So regardless of how I play, if we lose, we lose. We lose as a team and that’s what it’s all about.”

Still, it has been impossible to not notice that Lofton, with double-digit tackles in four of six games and four passes defensed this season, has been all over the field for the Saints.

Whether it has been dropping opposing running backs and receivers immediately at the point of impact, or exhibiting improved cover skills, Lofton has been the defensive rock for New Orleans.

“He’s playing very well,” Coach Sean Payton said. “I thought he probably had one of his better games of the season last week (against Detroit). He’s been an outstanding tackler, he’s got real good awareness so he spends a ton of time in preparation.

“Half the battle oftentimes at that Mike position is, your key and diagnose, your ability to see formations, see backfield sets and begin to get comfortable with what look you’re seeing, run or pass. He’s been playing at a high level.”

The level has been high enough that there’s little doubt as to who has been the most impactful Saints defender this season, a fact that doesn’t escape his teammates.

“He’s the leader,” said fellow linebacker David Hawthorne. Hawthorne and Lofton generally have a friendly wager as to who will total the most tackles in a season, or game. Hawthorne was sidelined by injury for two games and has 30 tackles.

“He’s a leader on the field and off the field and you can see it out there,” Hawthorne said. “His preparation is amazing this year and you can tell. You see he’s reaping the benefits out there.

“He’s on pace to do what he does every year, and that’s fly around, get people lined up and be prepared.”

It’s been the kind of performance that has been impossible to miss this season.

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