With 37 sacks in 11 games, the Saints’ defense has already surpassed its total of all last season — by seven — heading into Monday night’s showdown with the Seattle Seahawks.
One of the main reasons for the improved pass rush under first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has been defensive end Cameron Jordan, who is having a Pro Bowl-type year with a team-leading 9 1/2 sacks.
Jordan is second in the NFC (St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn has 13) and seventh in the entire NFL going into Monday night’s game.
Jordan, a first-round draft pick in 2011, had eight sacks to lead the Saints a year ago when they finished with only 30. This year, he’s been an integral part of an aggressive defense that ranks fifth in the NFL in fewest yards and points allowed — helping the Saints to a 9-2 record.
Jordan had 2 1/2 sacks of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in a 17-13 victory Thursday night and his total of 9 1/2 in 11 games, despite playing on a sore ankle for several weeks, is more than he had in his first two seasons.
“Last year, he was one of those guys that jumped off the tape when you watched him,” said free safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the team’s defensive captains. “His effort is phenomenal, and that was the biggest thing we saw last year — his effort to the ball every play.
“He’s one of those linemen that can play literally every down of the game and not be tired.”
PILING THEM UP: With Jordan having 9 1/2 sacks and outside linebacker Junior Galette collecting a career-high six, the Saints are averaging 3.4 per game.
Their 37 sacks has them tied for the league lead with four other teams — Baltimore, Buffalo, Kansas City and Green Bay — going into this week’s games.
The Saints, who finished last in the NFL in total defense last season, tied for 25th in sacks with only 30 en route to a 7-9 record.
SORRY TO SEE IT GO: After dropping a 26-20 decision to the New York Jets on Nov. 3, the Saints won their final three games of the month — defeating the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Falcons in a 12-day span.
Counting their 3-1 mark this month, the Saints have won 19 of the past 23 games they played in November dating to the 2008 season. They were 5-0 in 2009 and 3-0 in both 2010 and ’11.
BACK TO WORK: After having Saturday through Monday off following Thursday night’s win against the Falcons, the Saints returned to work Tuesday for what coach Sean Payton calls a “bonus” practice.
The practice gave them a chance to get a head start on Monday night’s opponent. They’ll be off again Wednesday and come back Thursday for the first of three workouts before making the long trip to Seattle on Saturday evening.
SPREADING IT AROUND: When Saints quarterback Drew Brees fired a 3-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Josh Hill, it wasn’t only the first scoring grab of Hill’s young career.
It added yet another name to the list of players Brees, who has 272 TDs since signing with the Saints in 2006, has thrown a scoring pass to in his 13-year career.
He’s now connected with 30 different Saints players — and 45 receivers in all when you count his first five seasons with the San Diego Chargers.
TURNOVER-FREE: It almost went unnoticed because it was a night game, but the Saints did not turn the ball over in the win against the Falcons.
The Saints are now 3-0 this season when they don’t give the ball away. That pushes their record since Payton became coach in 2006 to 25-1 in the regular season and 27-1 — counting the playoffs — when they play error-free ball.