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New Orleans Saints want to cool down red zone for opposing offenses

Saints opponents have converted TDs on 19 of 22 trips in red zone

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See the best moments from the Saints defense in the Week 7 match up against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Unless you enjoy preaching to the choir, there's no need to say a word to a single New Orleans Saints coach or defensive player.

He already knows.

He knows exactly how grisly are the numbers in the red zone, the ones which indicate that teams facing the Saints (4-2) have scored touchdowns on 19 of 22 trips inside New Orleans' 20-yard line – 86.4 percent of the time, the highest rate of success in the league.

And he knows that entering Sunday's game against the Bears (5-2) at Soldier Field in Chicago, it's something that desperately needs fixing before Chicago – 47.6 percent efficiency offensively in the red zone, fourth-worst in the league – finds its footing.

The thing is, it's just not a singular issue that has been the Saints' consistent thorn.

"It's not one specific thing," Coach Sean Payton said. "Obviously, we're trying to force field goals, that's both in the running game and the passing game.

"If you go all the way back to the start of the season, at the 2-yard line and (Tampa Bay quarterback) Tom Brady runs a quarterback sneak, that's not a good thing. So it begins with defending tight quarters more aggressively. We've had a couple calls, that's not the discussion.

"The discussion is being able to play the defense called, contest the throws and understand what we're trying to take away and fit properly. That's the key and I think that will be important in this game, just as (will be) the third down matchup."

The Bears, as previously mentioned, have struggled in the red zone. The run game hasn't helped (Chicago is at 84.1 rushing yards per game and two rushing touchdowns this season, fewest in the league, and 3.8 yards per run, fourth worst), and that plays into a New Orleans defensive strength (89.7 rushing yards per game allowed, fourth fewest).

And it's worth a refresher to remember that the Saints – with a good portion of the same players that are on this year's roster – were a more effective red-zone defense last season. In 2019, New Orleans' opponents had a 61 percent success rate in the red zone; not optimal, but a drastic 25 percent lower than the rate allowed this season.

That leads the Saints to believe that this season, they can begin to decelerate the damage.

"It's something that we have to continue to work at," defensive tackle Malcom Brown said. "We come here every week and we see the numbers like everybody else. We've just got to work at it every week to try to get better at it. Just try to transfer that stuff (in practice) to the game."

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER TEST: The Saints' schedule was interrupted a bit by Hurricane Zeta, but not so much that it was tossed into disarray. Players were released a little earlier Wednesday in order to get home. "We pushed practice back a little bit (Thursday) to get more film in order to get everyone home after practice yesterday, and so we'll catch up on that film this morning," Payton said. "The power went out here, generators came on, they worked and we got our work done. Things have been pretty smooth here."

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