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New Orleans Saints run defense searching for consistency

'You can't have that roller coaster. To be even-keel is exactly where we need to be'

New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan speaks with the media following practice in London on Thursday, September 29 ahead of their 2022 NFL Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings.
New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan speaks with the media following practice in London on Thursday, September 29 ahead of their 2022 NFL Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Defensively, the New Orleans Saints haven't been who they believe they are against the run entering Sunday's game against Minnesota at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

Despite consecutive games of allowing just 13 and 15 points – Tampa Bay and Carolina scored defensive touchdowns in the Saints' 20-10 and 22-14 losses – the Saints' run defense this season hasn't been up to expectation.

In the previous four seasons, New Orleans never allowed more than 94 rushing yards per game, and had a 55-game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher. In the first three games this season, the Saints have allowed two 100-yard rushers and are allowing 139.3 rushing yards per game on 4.2 yards per carry. The Vikings enter the game averaging 104 yards per game on 4.9 yards per carry.

"It's just getting back to the fundamentals," defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "It's everybody wanting to make plays, but taking that deep breath and focus on the techniques that you have in hand and getting back to what we do, what is our standard. You see Atlanta game (201 yards allowed on 38 carries), that wasn't our standard, you see Tampa game (72 yards allowed on 30 carries), our standard, you see this last game (145 allowed on 31 carries against Carolina), wasn't our standard.

"You can't have that roller coaster. To be even-keel is exactly where we need to be. Me and the D-line have talked about it. Everybody gets so amped up, so excited to take the field that sometimes it's like, 'I need to do more,' when really we just need to do our jobs. Focus on doing your job and a lot is going to happen for you."

MARSHON LOCKDOWN: Cornerback Marshon Lattimore is off to one of the best starts of his career, and co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Kris Richard said there's no hesitation matching up Lattimore one-on-one if that's what best fits the defense.

"It's all about our best matchup for our team," Richard said. "We see how much of an offense is truly designed around one guy. We have confidence in all of our defensive backs to go out there and cover whomever. But if it's best for us to match up Marshon on a particular guy, then we will do so."

Richard said Lattimore has been consistent.

"The coverage intensity has been there," Richard said. "He hasn't been challenged very much, I think he's only had the ball thrown at him seven times. That's because he's a quality player and he's being productive. The coverage intensity, he's where he's supposed to be and the quarterbacks don't like throwing at him."

ADEBO'S RETURN: Paulson Adebo, New Orleans' other starting cornerback, played in his first game of the season last Sunday against Carolina. Adebo had been out with a high ankle sprain and logged limited snaps against the Panthers.

"It's an integration process," Richard said. "We did not want to put the entirety of the game back on and then really test the endurance. If the endurance wasn't going to be there, if he wasn't going to be fit enough to play the entire game, that's our fault for putting him in that situation. So we just wanted to make sure that we integrated him in properly, gave him a few reps here and there to make sure that he's coming back all in one piece."

NO LUTZ CONCERNS: Kicker Wil Lutz had a difficult go of it against the Panthers, with a 30-yard field goal attempt blocked and a 48-yard attempt missed wide right. Special team coordinator Darren Rizzi doesn't foresee a lingering issue.

"You look at Wil's body of work…he had a bad day at the office last week," Rizzi said. "It happens to all of us. A couple of technical things. We all have very, very strong belief in Wil as a player. I know he's going to get it cleaned up.

"He's a guy that's going to analyze everything. He's a competitor, he's a fighter. There was no one more upset about it than him. He'll get it cleaned up and he knows what he needs to do."

BALL HAWKS: To a man, the Saints believe creating more turnovers will help solve defensive issues and, obviously, help out New Orleans' struggling offense.

"Major emphasis (on forcing turnovers)," Richard said. "We have to get back to our defense being great at being ball disruptors."

"We can start creating more turnovers," Jordan said. "We start scoring touchdowns on our side, we're going to end the games a lot more efficiently, if you will."

"We've got to finish, especially defensively," Mathieu said. "I think we've played some great stretches, we just haven't been able to finish. And then, two, we've got to find a way to affect the ball. It's been a while since we've created turnovers and gotten the ball back to our offense.

"All these games are huge, I think every game you play in the NFL it's all about who wins the turnover battle. Who can affect the quarterback and affect the primary weapons of the offense. I think defensively we want to be able to do that. We want to be able to flip field position for our offense and we want to be able to affect the ball."

New Orleans Saints held practice in London on Thursday, Sept. 29 ahead of their Sunday game against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4 of the 2022 NFL season.

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