Too many sacks, Saints O-line wants to improve

Drew Brees may have thrown for 300-plus yards and 5 touchdowns, but his offensive line has expressed frustration for their on-going problems with pass protection.

"We can't give up four sacks, we can't let him get hit like that," tackle Zach Strief said. "It's nothing that we don't work on, it's not intentional. I had to come and say they get paid too, you want it to be less and sometimes it's more than you want it to be."

For the season, Brees has been sacked 18 times, absorbing several other hard-hitting shots as well. The O-line knows it must improve, regardless of the opponent.

"Ultimately, we don't want him to get touched at all," added center Brian De La Puente. "No sacks, no hurries, all that stuff, so that was a good defensive front we just played, they did a good job of changing it up, showing different kinds of fronts, and getting after him, so we'll continue to work, technique, communication, and ultimately keep Drew upright."

And despite those four sacks allowed, coach Sean Payton said Monday he was pleased overall with the improving Saints running game and that his offensive line did win its share of battles up front against the Bills.

"That quarterback pressure battle each week, we thought it was going to be important in this game, and we actually won that battle when we added up pressures and sacks, on both sides of the ball," Payton said. "This was a team that is exceptional at getting to the quarterback with some elite pass rushers and even the inside players were very good at hurries, so we've got to be smart about what we're asking those guys to do up front, and also just have a little bit of variety so it's not a steady dose of one protection or the other."

On the other side of the ball, the defense is enjoying quite a turnaround in 2013. After allowing a season-high 30 points to the Patriots, the Saints "D" bounced back nicely against the Bills with a hard-hitting, turnover producing performance, which included four sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception.

New Orleans also held Buffalo to 17 points, that's the sixth time in seven games the Saints defense has not allowed 20 points, and now the Black-and-Gold remain fourth in the NFL in points allowed per game (17.1).

Payton was not around for last year's defensive debacle, but he does know that this year's group is certainly taking care of business.

"I would say definitely it's encouraging, we're playing better. The players are playing with more confidence, and I'm not going to define, grade, use words like exceptional. I'm going to say week to week we're encouraged an that there are a number of things that we can do better. But I think overall though, there's a real good complementary back and forth. And I think our players understand when we say that. I don't know that many people understand that, but there's a lot that goes into playing well on defense and playing well on offense and those categories that we talk about every week, so each week there's a different challenge, this week we'll have one on the road."

The Saints (6-1) face the New York Jets (4-4) next Sunday at noon on Fox 8.