Payton lauds improvement of Saints defense as season has progressed

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Saints DB CJ Gardner-Johnson hit 49ers QB Nick Mullens
(Photo: Parker Waters)

After its best performance of the season in the pivotal win at Tampa Bay, the New Orleans defense started slowly but rapidly progressed to play well in a 27-13 win last week over San Francisco.

Saints head coach Sean Payton liked what he saw and feels his defense is starting to make its mark as his offense has for so many years.

“After we kind of weathered the storm, if you will, or the beginning part of the game, I thought we played real well,” Payton said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. It’s a team, it’s not offense or it’s not just defense. We’re trying to, No. 1, play a complimentary game. I think that’s important.”

Payton has seen the defensive improvement in definitive fashion since starting the season 1-2.

“I think situationally, we’ve improved defensively,” Payton said. “We started off the year and we’re still looking at the numbers in the red zone, third down. Those numbers are climbing back to a better position. Most importantly, when you’re trying to win enough games to give yourself the best seed, you’re going to have to play well in all three areas.”

A host of newcomers, including draft picks and rookie free agents are now contributing nicely to the 6-game win streak.

“It’s hard to pinpoint or predict the learning curve of a rookie, especially in light of the type of offseason we had this year” Payton said. “Fortunately, it’s been an area we have been able to identify certain players that come in and then had a vision for a specific role. It’s happened with defensive tackles now. It’s happened a handful of times with an offensive lineman or receiver. Hopefully, we can continue.”

Veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins has settled in to play very well of late after a bit of a slow start.

“He’s playing a role that he’s familiar with,” Payton said. “He’s played well. He’s played in some of the dime packages down low. He’s played in some of the nickel back high and that flexibility is important as a safety.”

The Saints host the Falcons, who have a potent offense, Sunday at noon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in an NFL South battle.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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