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New Orleans Saints defense trying to replicate performance from recent past

'The good thing is, we're one week removed from putting it all together'

New Orleans Saints players in action during their 2022 Week 9 game against the Baltimore Ravens.
New Orleans Saints players in action during their 2022 Week 9 game against the Baltimore Ravens.

This isn't the first time this season that the New Orleans Saints simply have been looking to get back to something they already have done well before. The good thing, linebacker Demario Davis said, is that entering Sunday's game against the Steelers at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, they've done it before.

Defensively, the Saints (3-6) played their best game of the season in a 24-0 victory over the Raiders just eight days before offering one of their least efficient ones in a 27-13 loss to the Ravens.

"It's all about your process," Davis said. "You're just always refining the process. It's coming in, putting the work in, learning your opponents, putting together a good gameplan and then finding a way to go execute the gameplan.

"When we've played good football, we were able to go out and execute that gameplan. When we haven't, we didn't. We've just got to find a way to put it all together. The good thing is, we're one week removed from putting it all together. This past one, we didn't do that so well. So it's about just getting back to it."

Doing that will require beating the Steelers (2-6), who are coming off their bye week and have won their last five games, and 11 of 15, after bye week under Coach Mike Tomlin.

"It'll be a tough challenge against these guys," Saints Coach Dennis Allen said. "Mike Tomlin is a hell of a coach, they've been a really good team for a long time, it'll be a tough place to go play. After them having a week off, I know Coach Tomlin's got a pretty good record after a bye week.

"(They're) tough, physical, play really hard, play the game the right way. Defensively, I think they play the game really, really fast. They've got some pretty unique pressure packages that I think are complicated. They do a really good job of creating some pressure looks and I think that helps them in terms of the back end and what they're able to do coverage-wise. They're taking the ball away a lot, so that's something that we've got to be concerned about."

The Saints, who didn't practice Wednesday, listed a projected injury report and on it, left guard Andrus Peat (triceps) and center Erik McCoy (calf) would have been non-participants. New Orleans, which allowed four sacks against Baltimore, didn't practice as a counter for the short week, having played Monday night. It's the second short-week game for the Saints in their last five; they faced Arizona on Thursday night after playing Cincinnati on Sunday, Oct. 16.

"Short weeks are hard," Allen said. "Playing in the NFL is a difficult, challenging, tough mentally and physically thing for these players to have to go through. The short week makes it even that much more difficult. But we'll have to make sure we try to get our guys freshened up and ready to go."

Davis said the Saints simply have to apply what they already have shown is applicable on defense. Possibly, that will help New Orleans create turnovers, which have been elusive this season (two interceptions, five fumble recoveries).

"It's just all about applying pressure," Davis said. "I think this game starts with stopping the run, having 11 guys to the football, be able to punch the ball out, create those opportunities. Then you get more opportunities to create quarterbacks in longer situations.

"Getting after the quarterback, that allows him to either be forced to hold it longer than he wants to, or force a throw. Just playing faster than your opponent, putting yourself in favorable situations."

SACK MAN: With a sack Monday night against the Ravens, Davis took over the team lead with six, which is a single-season career high. Twice, Davis had reached five sacks in a season.

"It's ideal to be able to hit a career high, in my 11th season," he said. "It's certainly a blessing. I do see me positionally evolving into more of a pressure player. I think that's something that I've continued to work at, be better at in my career.

"Though I've still been able to do high-volume things as a run stopper and in coverage, I just think that the greatest strength of my game is in pressuring the quarterback. This year I've had to be highly efficient in that arena because I haven't had as many pressures as I've had before. So certainly, having a career high, with less pressures, is showing that the work that has been put in is working.

"My mindset is always to help the team do whatever I can to help get a win, but definitely see pressuring the quarterback as probably one of my best assets."

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