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New Orleans Saints defense in 'taking' spirit this season

Allen: 'I think we've probably done a better job of putting an emphasis on it'


This is what it can look like for the New Orleans Saints defense when it simply catches a healthy portion of the footballs it is in position to catch: An NFL-leading 12 interceptions, leading to an NFL lead-tying 18 forced turnovers and a plus-8 takeaway ratio.

"I think guys have made the plays that they have an opportunity to make," Coach Dennis Allen said. "I know last year we didn't have a lot of interceptions, but there was probably a dozen or so that we had opportunities to make plays and we didn't make them. But I think guys are making the plays this year."

"We're just catching them this year," said safety Marcus Maye, whose two interceptions rank second on the team. "We had the same opportunities last year, but we're just capitalizing more. We put an emphasis on it in the offseason, we talked about it during the year, during camp. We put a focus on it, so when we have our opportunities we've just got to take advantage of it."

After last season, New Orleans, 5-4 heading into Sunday's game against the Vikings (5-4) at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, placed an emphasis on taking away the ball. The Saints finished with a franchise-low seven interceptions, and coupled with just four fumble recoveries, the team was minus-11 in takeaways.

But the Saints have forced at least one turnover in every game this season, including a season-high five in Sunday' 24-17 victory over Chicago.

Cornerback Paulson Adebo was responsible for three (two interceptions, one in which he undercut the receiver's route, and a fumble recovery, which he caused by forcing the fumble), and linebacker Pete Werner recovered a fumble forced by linebacker Demario Davis on a sack to add to safety Marcus Maye's diving pick.

"I was happy for Paulson," Coach Dennis Allen said Monday in his press conference. "The two interceptions were played exactly right. You do exactly what you're being taught to do, execute the defensive scheme exactly how you're supposed to execute the defensive scheme, you get rewarded. He got rewarded with a couple of interceptions.

"You attack the ball like we talk about attacking the ball, and you get a punch out and you get rewarded. This game's really not that complicated. If you just look right and do right, you have a chance to have success. And so, we need to do that more consistently."

The defense had a quick tutorial last week in advance of playing the Bears, and it paid dividends.

"I think we've probably done a better job of putting an emphasis on it," Allen said. "Last week, we started off the defensive meetings showing just how takeaways are created in our league. There was a bigger emphasis of that, I think you saw some of that during the game, guys searching out opportunities to take the ball away."

"It was definitely big," Maye said. "Any time you can put an emphasis on anything, the goal is to go out there and execute and we watched a couple of tapes each day during the week, and we went out there and made attempts at it and we got a few."

GRUPE PROJECT: As of Monday afternoon, Allen said there were no plans to bring in any kickers for tryouts. Rookie Blake Grupe is 18 of 23 this season, but he missed a 47-yard attempt Sunday (banged off the left upright) and has missed four of his last 11 attempts, including two inside 50 yards.

"This is a grown man's league, so we're not worried about anybody's feelings right now," Allen said. "Blake's got a job to do, he's got to kick it through the posts and he understands that.

"It's the whole operation. There's a lot of things that go into it. A lot of times everybody just looks at the field goal kicker and did he make it or not. There's a lot of things that go into that. You've got a snap, you've got a hold, you've got a protection. And I've seen some really good kickers in our league that have had some inconsistencies as a rookie and teams move on from them and they go to different spots and have great careers.

"We have confidence in Blake, but you have to evaluate those things. You have to pay attention to it."