Saints defense hoping extra work extends winning streak

New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro witnessed something at team headquarters on Monday that he could not recall seeing before in his three-plus NFL seasons.

Every player on defense voluntarily showed up to review game video during what coaches had designated as a day off in the wake of New Orleans’ victory over Carolina on Sunday.

“It was good for everybody to kind of see their mistakes,” Vaccaro said. “There were just a lot of plays that (Carolina) made that were directly related with us playing the wrong technique. It had nothing to do with talent.

“It’s just not acceptable and if we keep seeing that in the future it’s going to cost us some games,” Vaccaro added. “We have to get that fixed now.”

Vaccaro said he senses the Saints’ overall psyche improving after two straight victories, even though both triumphs came by the narrowest of margins.

New Orleans needed a dramatic comeback to win by a point at San Diego on Oct. 2. The Saints then returned from a their bye to pull out a victory with a field goal in the final seconds over the Panthers, who were less rested coming off a loss the previous Monday night.

“Everybody’s positive. Everybody understands how hard it is to win in this league,” Vaccaro said.

“That was a good football team we played, regardless of what their record is,” Vaccaro said the Panthers, who are the defending NFC champions and have dropped three of their five losses by a field goal or less.

Vaccaro then added, “The San Diego Charges just went and beat the Denver Broncos, the Super Bowl winner. We beat (the Chargers), so, I mean, everybody feels good.”

Even when they were 0-3, the Saints were already pleased by the performance of their offense, which has ranked among the best in the league since Week 1. Against Carolina, Drew Brees passed for 465 yards and four touchdowns while completing 34 passes to 10 players. The Saints finished with 523 total yards of offense while scoring 41 points.

“For us to be able to do something like that, it’s great for everyone because it opens up the offense so the defense can’t key on one guy,” said receiver Brandin Cooks, who had 173 yards receiving, including an 87-yard TD, against Carolina. “When you have success like that with everyone on the field and not just a couple people, you definitely have to say the passing game is improving.”

While the Saints would like such production to result in more comfortable victory margins, Cooks said during a conference call Monday that any kind of win improves the Saints’ confidence right now.

“It seems like we’re turning things around,” Cooks said. “Now we just have to come together as one team with our offense putting up a lot of points and our defense holding opposing teams” to fewer points.

But after the Panthers piled up 406 yards and 38 points, the Saints are now allowing 33.6 points per game, which ranks last in the NFL, and 419.4 yards per game, which ranks second-to-last.

Without improvement on that side of the ball, the Saints will be hard pressed to keep winning. Their next two games are at Kansas City (3-2) this Sunday and at home against Seattle (4-1) on Oct. 30.

When Cooks heard defensive players were gathering to review video on a day off, he sounded pleased by the unit’s determination to improve, but didn’t want to be too critical of the defense’s play.

“We got each other’s back because there will be games where it seems like offense can’t put up the point we usually do,” Cooks said. “Obviously, we’re all going to hold each other accountable to be able to work harder, to be able to fix things and figure out things. … We can’t be blind to the situation.”

Coach Sean Payton, meanwhile, wasn’t ready to read too much into the direction of his team, which has seen four of its five games come down to the last possession.

“There are times in a season where you gain momentum and generally I think it’s a little further out than where we’re at right now,” Payton said.

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