Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
|Saints linebacker Junior Galette|
METAIRIE, La. (AP) - Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Ranked 23th in the NFL in yards allowed and tied for 27th in sacks a year after finishing fourth in both categories, the Saints are nowhere near where they want to be defensively.
Still, the unit demonstrated an ability to get clutch stops and timely quarterback pressure in its last outing, and Galette says he expects that late performance to become the new norm, beginning with the Saints' game at Detroit (4-2) on Sunday.
"You're going to see something starting this week," said Galette, who has three sacks this season after a career-high 12 last season. "I'm real confident. We've had a great week of practice. We haven't practiced like that in a while. You can feel it, too, just the aura around everybody that we're about to turn this thing around."
Galette recalled his experience as a young player with the Saints in 2011, when the club responded to a lackluster mid-season loss in St. Louis with an eight-game winning streak to close the regular season.
"That's the same feeling I have right now," he said.
This time, the Saints are coming off of a bye week in which they had time to recharge, but also reflect on a disappointing 2-3 start to the season.
"That bye week helped to get away from football," he said. "We've come back and are like, this is my career, this is my life, and a lot of guys have taken ownership of making a lot of mistakes to hurt the team. It just started with accountability."
The Saints know something needs to change. Even their two victories were struggles. They beat Minnesota 20-9 in the Superdome when rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had to replace an injured Matt Cassel in the first half and the Vikings were in the early stages of the Adrian Peterson suspension. The Saints needed overtime before they outlasted the Bucs.
Minnesota was outscored 67-19 in its other three losses. Tampa Bay lost 56-14 to Atlanta and 48-17 to Baltimore.
Still, the Saints did manage to stuff the Buccaneers on two pivotal, consecutive fourth-quarter possessions, getting a safety on Galette's sack of Mike Glennon and later forcing three straight incomplete passes as they rallied from a 31-20 deficit to win 37-31 in overtime.
"It's important," Saints coach Sean Payton said, for the defense to build off of the Bucs game.
"We don't have to be perfect, but we are in a race to improve," Payton said. "Coming off that game and this bye week, we're looking to do that this weekend."
Linebacker Curtis Lofton, who leads the Saints with 40 tackles, agreed the open week came at a good time.
"You get away, get refreshed, get your mind right, and when you get back, it's all football," he said. "To second what Junior said, I think we're finally starting to play as a unit. It's time for more good times than bad now."
The Saints have faced defensive issues in several areas. In addition to the yards they have allowed, they rank last in the NFL with two takeaways and seventh to last in opposing quarterback rating. They also lost safety Jairus Byrd, a key free agent acquisition, for the year with a knee injury in practice before the Tampa Bay game.
Still, Galette took solace in the ending against the Bucs. A sack for a safety is similar to a turnover, and Glennon's passes started hitting the ground.
"We showed a lot of courage and tenacity just to finish that game," Galette said. "As a defense, we're not getting the numbers as far as sacks, but I know we're up there with the pressures. ... We just got to get (the quarterback) down."
Notes: Tight end Jimmy Graham practiced on a limited basis Thursday and was listed as limited on the official injury report. Graham hurt his shoulder in the first quarter against Tampa Bay and did not participate in team drills on Wednesday. ... Running back Mark Ingram, who has not played since hurting his left hand against Cleveland on Sept. 14, practiced without limitations for the second consecutive day. ... Cornerback Keenan Lewis missed practice with a toe injury after participating fully on Wednesday. ... Running back Pierre Thomas sat out with an unspecified illness.