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John DeShazier: Saints defense is on three-game roll

Unit is forcing turnovers, sacking quarterbacks, contesting passes

Check out the on-field action as the Saints host the Lions in Week 6.

After three consecutive seasons of bottom-three caliber defense, the New Orleans Saints are on a three-game roll that aligns with the improvement that the preseason suggested was forthcoming.

While allowing 51 total points during that time (37 defensively; 14 points were scored by Detroit via a punt return and interception return), the Saints have surrendered just 821 yards (273.7 per game) and have racked up three defensive touchdowns, nine turnovers (including seven interceptions), 13 sacks, 15 quarterback hits, 25 passes defensed and six forced fumbles.

It has been a ravenous display by a unit that, to a man this offseason, said it was weary of being considered the weak link.

For the last three weeks, all victories to push New Orleans to 3-2 this season, rather than the weak link, the defense has been barbed.

"I think the one thing would be, the front and coverage has gone pretty handily together," Coach Sean Payton said Monday in his teleconference with local media. "We've been able to get pressure on the quarterbacks and with that, the coverage has been tight. We've had some tipped plays – some interceptions, some near interceptions – we've had some takeaways."

They've seen hard evidence of what can happen when much of what is preached – population to the ball, contesting passes, playing better situational football – is carried out.

"I was pleased," Payton said. "I felt overall one of the positives (Sunday) was our energy, the way guys moved around. I thought they handled the bye week the correct way and we played with a certain level of urgency. That can overcome a lot. I was encouraged, especially early in the game defensively, how we did that."

TWO STANDOUTS: Two defensive standouts from Sunday's game were defensive end Cam Jordan (an interception for a touchdown, two sacks, three passes defensed, two quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, five tackles) and cornerback Marshon Lattimore (an interception returned for a touchdown, two passes defensed, a fumble recovery and five tackles).

Said Payton, on Jordan: "I think he had one of his better games of his career. He's improving. He was very good (Sunday). I thought he was exceptional."

Regarding, Lattimore, Payton said: "He's one of the guys that we gave a game ball to. He's contesting throws, competing on every throw. He's got good instincts, good balance and I think his length is something that shows up. I was real encouraged."

THERE'S WORK TO DO: As one might surmise, it wasn't all rainbows and puppy dogs after Sunday's win. A 45-10 Saints lead disintegrated to 45-38 before Jordan's defensive touchdown provided the final margin with 5:03 left, and Payton said there were several areas that need to be addressed and corrected.

"Being a smarter team, keeping the ball in front of you," he said. "Understanding the situation, understanding what has to happen. The ball security on offense; we turned the ball over three times in the second half. We have a chance to do something that no one in the history of the NFL has done, and that is go through five games with no turnovers, but we don't do that. So we've got to be a little bit better with the ball.

"The punt return for a touchdown – in order for them to win that game, eight things are going to have to happen. Five of the eight, probably, or four of the eight, did. So, just understanding where you're at in the game. Now, that largest lead that we had, you look up and you still had 12-something (minutes) left in the third quarter. There was a lot of football (left). But we've got to be a little smarter in those situations. The penalties were problematic and those will be addressed."

GOOD ON A.D.: Payton said he saw Adrian Peterson's numbers from Sunday (26 carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-33 win for Arizona) and was pleased to see Peterson play well. Peterson ran for 81 yards in 27 carries in four games as a Saint this season, before he was traded to the Cardinals last Tuesday.

"I did see and I was glad for him, Payton said. "I knew when he left here he was going to have those opportunities, he and I had met and talked about it. I think he was outstanding."

MR. RODGERS' INJURY: The Saints will attempt to win their fourth consecutive game Sunday, against the Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers will be without star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who broke his collarbone Sunday against Minnesota and may miss the rest of the regular season. He was replaced by third-year quarterback Brett Hundley, who was 18 of 33 for 157 yards and a touchdown, with three interceptions, in the loss to Minnesota. Hundley, who was sacked four times in the 23-10 loss, had thrown one career pass before that game.

"You're putting a plan together for the overall offense or the overall defense," Payton said. "Certainly, there's changes when you have a player at the quarterback position and yet, you still have to put your game plan around what you've been seeing. Aaron is one of those guys that moves well and throws on the run well and we're preparing to play a real good football team. None of us wants to be without our starting quarterback, but this is a team that's won a lot of games and I think our players will understand that."

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