Rob Ryan's defense produced 49 sacks last year, with an aggressive front seven that consistently found its way to the opposing quarterback. However, in Sunday's 37-34 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Saints vaunted "D" was held in check and exploited, to the tune of 568 total yards, the second highest amount allowed in franchise history.
"Punch in the face right off the bat," linebacker Junior Galette said. "Ok we gotta eat some of this humble pie, and we gotta get prepared for week two because the mindset right now is we refuse to let this happen again."
Cornerback Keenan Lewis added, "It's hard, especially when it's a rival game like that. We just had that type of performance, but we'll get it fixed."
Overall the Saints tallied just one sack on Sunday, courtesy of Tyrunn Walker in the fourth quarter, also serving as the Black-and-Gold's D's lone tackle for a loss. According to Galette, for the Saints defense to increase its production, it will take more than individuals beating their man, it will take a collective defensive effort.
"The back end has to be in sync with the front end as well," Galette said. "They have to hold their coverages, while we have to win. If they hold their coverages, and we don't win, now the quarterback has 5-6 seconds, a few of the occasions that Matt Ryan had last week. So it works both ways, we all just have to be in sync."
Head Coach Sean Payton also recognizes the collective approach, "The key is the balance between coverage and a rush depending on if you are rushing four or three or more than that. We'll have that balance. I think it's easy to say, that but you want to get them in the long yardage situations. You want to stay in the second and fives. You want to get in on the third and longs. Winning on first down and second down can help you."
Missed tackles were also a key element to New Orleans' defensive struggles, so the team spent specific portions of practice this week focusing on fundamentals.
"We have individual periods out here, where it's strictly fundamentals," Payton said. "You're working location, landmarks, leverage, where you're fitting. The number one thing is population of the ball. All of those things we work on and we have to."
Safety Kenny Vaccaro added, "At the end of the day when big plays happen. Big plays start to happen, you gotta get the ball carrier down, so you can live to play another down. That's one thing as a safety, as a secondary we can correct in our room."
"The word this week and the next week and the following week will be tackle," Lewis said.
The Saints will look to avoid an 0-2 start against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at noon.