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John DeShazier: Saints defenders say they have plenty to work on

But defense has been exceptional during four-game winning streak

Hold the applause and holster the confetti for the time being: Four games does not a season make.

Make that four really, really good games by the New Orleans Saints' defense entering Sunday's matchup against Chicago in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, victories in which they've allowed 288 yards and 13 points to Carolina, 186 yards and no points to Miami, 347 yards and 24 points to Detroit and 260 yards and 17 points to Green Bay.

And, by the way, victories in which they forced 10 turnovers, scored three defensive touchdowns and posted 14 sacks.

Still, Saints defenders advise a dimming of the spotlight, for now at least.

"For me, it's got to be a couple of years before you're known as doing anything on defense, in my opinion," safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "We've had so many years where it was bad that we're not ready to be crowned yet.

"We're improving every week, (but) we've still got things every game, you're like, 'Wow, what are they doing out there?' Like the long run (46-yard touchdown) that (Packers running back) Aaron Jones had last game. We've still got clean up stuff like that. Dominant defenses, they'll give up some plays but they won't give up the big plays like that.

"We've still got to work to clean those things up. We're giving up way too many explosive plays and we're not very good on third down (opponents are converting 46.8 percent of the time). We haven't done enough."

Linebacker Craig Robertson doesn't at all disagree. There's a balancing act between being complimentary of the defense's stand during the team's four-game winning streak, and remaining grounded.

"Definitely," Robertson said. "You never want to get too overconfident, but you always want to have that confident edge so you can go out there and play fast and play fun.

"This is something that you have to know, even as a young guy. As an old guy you have to preach it, but as a young guy you have to accept it. Because a lot of these guys, in college, had a lot of success, and they kept that success for a long time. But the NFL is different, everybody is on the same playing level as you. So you have to stay in your zone and keep doing what got you here in the first place."

Said Coach Sean Payton: "That line, you fight in sports – well, you fight it in life, really – human nature is, how well do you handle prosperity. Football-wise, it's week to week. We know who we're playing, the type of team we're playing. Each game takes on a new way in which it's going to be played. We're going to have to play one of our better games at home."

On that front, New Orleans has found Vaccaro to be dependable force. He already has collected a team-high four turnovers this season (a career-high three interceptions and a fumble recovery for a touchdown) and has been as predatory as at any time in his career. Vaccaro had two interceptions, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, six passes defensed and a sack in 11 games last season; he served a league suspension the final four games.

"I'm just continuing what I did before my suspension last year," he said. "I was getting turnovers those last couple of games before I got suspended and I'm doing it this year. I'm just doing what I've been doing. But a lot of it is growing up in this league, film study, knowing exactly what plays are coming. That helps me a lot."

But playing well individually, and collectively, isn't enough to earn a bow.

"We've been playing good but like I said, it's been four games," Vaccaro said. "I don't want to get too optimistic about anything because this league will humble you quick. Really, we have that lunch-pail, head-down, just working mentality, and that's all you can have. We haven't really proven anything except that we can play good these last four games."

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