The 2009 Saints offense probably isn’t walking through that door. But the defending champions can still be one of the best teams in a muddled NFC if they play smarter on offense, and their defense plays like it did Sunday night against the Steelers.
The Saints won 20-10 on the strength of a great goal line stand, and two fourth quarter takeaways against Pittsburgh. Despite being short-handed in the secondary, Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams confused Ben Roethlisberger all night long with an array of blitzes. They recorded 3 sacks and no Pittsburgh receiver topped 43 yards.
Keyed by good field position, the Saints put together their only two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. Drew Brees completed 20-of-22 passes for 191 yards and two scores after halftime, although he did turn the ball over twice again on Sunday night. The Saints held the ball for almost 35 minutes.
Pittsburgh’s pass defense continues to show a few cracks after a ridiculously dominant start, but they remain in good shape at 5-2. This was a bigger game for New Orleans, a team could ill afford to fall two losses behind the Bucs and Falcons in the NFC South.
The Saints now enter a favorable part of their schedule knowing they can beat an elite opponent. This was the team’s first “Big” game since a Week Four loss to the Falcons, and they came through with their best 30 minutes of the season after halftime. They won a physical slugfest against the most physical team in the league.
These Saints may not light up the scoreboard like last year’s team, but the 2010 Saints went a long way towards establishing their own identity Sunday night.
UPDATE: Video proof: