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New Orleans Saints faithful and outside observers have high praise for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his defense

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; But the Saints' defensive coordinator will have a hard time convincing folks of that now that his dominant unit has helped to spearhead the team's first 4-0 start in 16 years. The Saints' defense outscored both offenses in a 24-10 ...

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Old 10-06-2009, 11:27 PM   #1
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But the Saints' defensive coordinator will have a hard time convincing folks of that now that his dominant unit has helped to spearhead the team's first 4-0 start in 16 years.

The Saints' defense outscored both offenses in a 24-10 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday, thanks to safety Darren Sharper's 99-yard interception return and defensive end Will Smith's forced fumble in the end zone, which was recovered by tackle Remi Ayodele.

The entire country seemed to take notice after the high-profile showdown between unbeaten teams. Click on any national sports Web site, and you'll find NFL analysts describing the unexpected efforts of a formerly maligned defense that leads the NFL with 13 takeaways.

You might also find the suddenly balanced Saints taking over the top spot on several "power rankings" -- whatever that may be worth one-quarter of the way into the season.

At this rate, the Superdome architects might consider using the upcoming bye week to start chiseling a Gregg Williams statue outside the front gate.

Obviously, there are several reasons for the Saints' dramatic turnaround on defense -- and as Coach Sean Payton described it Monday, the switch from former defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs to Williams was a much-needed spark that lit the fire.

"Sometimes the change is necessary, and unfortunately in our business you can't change out an entire side of the ball. I think Gregg and his staff defensively have done a good job, along with the players, of coming into this season with a new approach, " said Payton, who said it was a "fair question" when asked if the coordinator change was the overwhelming reason for the turnaround.

"Those things are always probably somewhere in the middle, " Payton said. "Certainly, Gregg has done a great job of coming in here and creating a little bit of a new culture, a new environment in regards to the defensive side of it. We have also gotten guys back from injury that were nicked up from a year ago (most notably ends Charles Grant and Will Smith and cornerback Tracy Porter). We've added some key players -- Sharper, (cornerback) Jabari Greer was a big offseason acquisition for us.

"But I think there is so much that goes into it. In the end, we're always in the business of selling our scheme to the players. We're selling the offensive game plan each week, and we're selling the defensive game plan and how we're going to win the game. There's a confidence with Gregg that can carry over to good defense, much like you've seen with Rex (Ryan) in New York."

That confidence is clearly being felt throughout the Saints' locker room.

Although they missed the playoffs in each of the last two years, this is not a team that's "just happy to be here" right now. The Saints have considered themselves as championship contenders every year since they reached the NFC title game in 2006. They've just needed to clean up a few areas of the game that are working brilliantly right now -- eliminating big plays on defense, winning the turnover battle, running the ball efficiently, winning the field-position battle on special teams.

Of course, Payton and players have downplayed the significance of their 4-0 start, pointing out that there are still a lot of games left on the schedule -- starting with a matchup against the also-unbeaten New York Giants at the Superdome on Oct. 18.

But staying cautious doesn't prevent the Saints from being energized by what they've accomplished so far this season.

"The obvious benefit is the record, " Payton said during his weekly Monday press conference. "That being said, winning always has a tendency in this league to build confidence. What's important, though, is that you can bring your players in and you can teach and coach them like we will tomorrow and correct the mistakes because even in a big win, there are always things to look at and say that we have to be better in this specific area.

"We have to be better in some of these short-yardage situations. We have to do a better job of working on our punt-return game. We have to be better with the ball security. In a game where we're talking about clearly laying out the formula to win the game and part of that formula was no turnovers, and there were a couple of times when the ball was on the ground -- we got it back once, and the other time we didn't.

"Just tying together that whole message of trying to improve each week, trying to get better from the game you just played as a team to the next week, so that you feel that as the season progresses that your arrow is going in the right direction."

Players had Monday off. They'll come in for film review, weightlifting and light workouts today and Wednesday before escaping for a four-day weekend.

New Orleans Saints faithful and outside observers have high praise for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his defense | New Orleans Saints Central - - NOLA.com

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