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New Orleans Saints defense undergoing short-week recovery plan after 92-play game against Kansas City

'We're ready to go, man'

All the snaps happened in regulation, but it's perfectly reasonable for the New Orleans Saints defense to feel like it worked overtime.

In fact, the unit literally has worked less in overtime this season – twice, to be accurate – than it did in Sunday's 32-29 loss to Kansas City, during which the Saints' defense was on the field for 92 plays. And it'll have to be ready to get back on the field Friday in a short-week, Christmas Day game against Minnesota in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"It's what you have to do," defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson said. "You can't shy away from it. We know what we signed ourselves up for. We're used to running around. We are (defensive backs), we are linebackers, we are (defensive line). We're used to running and chasing. But, this is an unordinary week, scramble drills real. But we're ready to go, man. We just have to get our feet back under us.

"We can't complain and say, oh, 92 plays. If we get to play 150 plays and win the game, we're going to do it. So, it sounds like a lot, but we played 92 plays (Sunday), so you might as well say we had 100 plays. So, it doesn't matter."

Definitely, the Saints' defense played as if the number of snaps didn't matter. New Orleans was pushed and pressured repeatedly by Kansas City's high-powered offense – chasing 4.4-speed receivers and trying to hem in a savvy, slippery quarterback – and held its own.

The Chiefs scored 32 points but had possession for 41:14. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes totaled 254 passing yards on 47 attempts and was sacked four times, and the Saints didn't allow a play longer than 24 yards.

That, despite running around in coverage for four- and five-second chunks, trying to force turnovers and incompletions. New Orleans broke up eight passes – Gardner-Johnson had a game-high three passes defensed – and totaled 11 quarterback hits.

"You can't ask for nothing better than that," Gardner-Johnson said. "We went out there and played our hearts out. We went around the whole damn field, sideline to sideline, end zone to end zone.

"To hold that type of offense to only, what was it? Thirty- some points? Thirty-two points. And for us to like, hold (Mahomes) to 250 passing yards. I mean, I'm not into stats, but we can play anybody."

Even when they have to work extra. And Sunday easily was the longest workday of the season for the defense.

In New Orleans' 26-23 overtime win against Chicago on Nov. 1, the Bears ran 69 plays. In its 30-27 overtime win against the Chargers on Oct. 12, Los Angeles ran 69 plays.

Likely, the most recent comparison for the Saints happened during the 2016 season, when the defense played 83 snaps on Nov. 13 in a 25-23 loss to Denver, then logged 62 snaps four days later in a 23-20 loss to Carolina.

Recovery is a vital factor in preparation this week.

"I think our approach this week is important, and getting these guys in, getting them rested, recovered," Coach Sean Payton said. "Obviously, it's a high total. Fortunately, we're fairly healthy coming out of it. I think the recovery element of what we do is important. (And) Friday is a tick better than a Thursday game."

"Sometimes you're going to have games where you play a lot of snaps," linebacker Demario Davis said. "Ideally, you don't want to but you're going to have games like that.

"I think the thing with the short week, rest becomes a premium, spend extra time in recovery and having that process right, understand that you've still got to try to get all your (film study) in. It's just really about the process and making sure it's fine tuned."

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