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New Orleans Saints defense faces another mobile quarterback against Vikings

'"It's another one of those weeks where it's no fun to rush the quarterback"

Check out the game action shots from the New Orleans Saints game against the Chicago Bears in Week 9 of the 2023 NFL season.
Check out the game action shots from the New Orleans Saints game against the Chicago Bears in Week 9 of the 2023 NFL season.

Houston's C.J. Stroud ran for two yards on three carries, but danced around enough to fluster during a first half in which he completed 10 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence ran for a team-high 59 yards on eight carries.

Indianapolis' Gardner Minshew, like Stroud, was less hurtful as a runner (one carry for three yards) than as a mover, as he extended plays and completed 13 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

Chicago's Tyson Bagent had a game-leading 60 rushing yards on six carries in the first half, before finishing with eight carries for 70 yards.

The common thread – and Green Bay's Jordan Love (team-leading nine carries for 39 yards) and Tampa Bay's Baker Mayfield (eight for 31) can be tossed in, as well – is that each is a mobile quarterback, and mobile quarterbacks routinely have given the New Orleans Saints defense headaches this season.

The Saints (5-4) will face another one Sunday in Minnesota's Joshua Dobbs when they take on the Vikings (5-4) at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Dobbs, the NFC Offensive Player of the Week, was traded to the Vikings on Oct. 31, practiced with the Vikings on Nov. 1, entered the game against Atlanta on Nov. 5 in the first quarter because of injury, and completed 20 of 30 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns, without an interception, and ran for 66 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

He was sacked three times and fumbled three times, also. But his ability to extend plays has been on display all season. He has rushed for 324 yards and four touchdowns on 54 carries.

"We're facing these mobile quarterbacks, we're not allowed to pass rush to our highest capacity because it's one of those things where you have to collapse the pocket and have your eye on the quarterback," Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "It just is what it is. It's great to have pressures if those pressures lead to us winning. At the end of the day, we want to do our job to our highest ability and that hopefully puts our team in a better position to win."

Jordan said it falls to the defensive line to keep mobile quarterbacks in check.

"Why wouldn't you blame it on the D-line?" he said. "When a quarterback escapes the pocket, who do you point the finger at? It's got to be on us.

"We feel like Dobbs, what he was doing in Arizona, was pretty electric. And what he did last week against Atlanta was astounding, the way he extended plays with his feet. So it's got to be on the D-line. We've got to be able to collapse the pocket.

"It's another one of those weeks where it's no fun to rush the quarterback. We've faced, like, three or four or five of those already this year, where it's like you'd love to hit the top edge of a rush or run eight yards in, but that's going to lead to gashes on the defense, so you can't do it. I think our defensive line has congealed enough with our interior to where now we can start talking about, 'All right, this is what we have to do.' We were asking you to do it, now we're telling you to do it. And it has to get done."

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Coach Dennis Allen agreed, having seen his defense drastically improve in the second halves of games overall, and in its ability to corral mobile quarterbacks in the final two quarters.

"Our ability to get after the passer has to be better," Allen said. "We can't let quarterbacks run the ball on us, and yet, we have to be able to get pressure on them, get them off the spot. Things like that. If we create some one-on-ones, we expect our guys to win some one-on-one matchups. There's a lot of things we have to improve in that area.

"We're going to play 65 plays in a game (on average defensively), and probably half to two-thirds are going to be passing plays. And probably, dropback passes in a game, 25 to 30. Throw a few play-actions and some boots and things like that, so you're going to have about 25 to 30 plays in a game that you've got to be able to rush the passer with some lane integrity.

"And I don't care whether it's the first half or the second half, we've got to do a better job with our lane integrity and keeping quarterbacks in the pocket, and still being able to get pressure on them and make them have to spit the ball."

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