Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan addresses the media once a week; so, when he talked to reporters Friday, five days had passed since his subordinates had melted down late in a 24-23 defeat at Detroit.
That had not been enough time to get over the disappointment of that experience.
“I’m telling the truth — it was execution,” said Ryan, in his second year with the Saints. “That’s what it is.”
To build up a 23-10 lead with fewer than four minutes to go in their visit to the Lions, the Saints (2-4) had intercepted quarterback Matthew Stafford twice and sacked him three times. It was the first multiple takeaway game the Saints defense had delivered since an Oct. 27, 2013, victory at home against Buffalo; and the sacks represented a season high.
But then, on a third-and-14 from Detroit’s 27 with about 3:52 to go in the game, Stafford threw a short pass to the right to receiver Golden Tate. Saints cornerback Corey White leapt up for the ball, but Tate cut in front of him and hauled the pass in.
When White landed, he was out of position to wrap Tate up. Tate scored a 73-yard touchdown after evading White and the two other Saints who had any possibilities of stopping him: cornerback Keenan Lewis and safety Kenny Vaccaro, who had each picked off Stafford earlier in the contest.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw an interception on the ensuing drive, and Detroit took over at New Orleans’ 14. Stafford soon helped the Lions win the game after throwing a touchdown pass on a third-and-goal to unheralded receiver Corey Fuller in the back of the end zone.
“That is not good defense,” Ryan said in a matter-of-fact monologue on Friday. “We are in this thing together — nobody points fingers on our defense, and no one ever will.
“(But) we are not one of these teams that are OK with, ‘Well, we are getting better.’ … Bull crap — we are here to win, and that’s how it has to be.”
After holding opponents to the fourth-fewest yards in 2013 and helping New Orleans clinch an appearance in the divisional round of the playoffs, Ryan’s defense was 21st in the NFL in that category as it began preparing to host the Green Bay Packers (5-2) on Sunday night. The Saints were also 28th in points allowed after being fourth in that category in 2013 as they started readying themselves for an opponent led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who’s been incomprehensibly effective while throwing 18 touchdowns and just one interception this year.
“They are going to have some success,” Ryan said of the Packers. “We have to have our own success; and when we get that chance to make that play, we need to cash in and do it.”
They didn’t against Detroit, and they’re two games below .500 because of that.