NEW ORLEANS — After giving up 83 points and 814 total yards in their past two meaningful games, a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks and the season opener against the Green Bay Packers, the New Orleans Saints’ defense did what it does best Sunday.
With its back to the wall, the Saints attacked from the first play of the game and attacked some more in a 30-13 trouncing of the Chicago Bears in their home opener in the Superdome.
Two numbers — 56 and five — were all defensive coordinator Gregg Williams needed to see to devise an aggressive game plan that would relentlessly pressure Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
The numbers represented the sacks the Bears allowed a year ago and last week in a season-opening romp over the Atlanta Falcons, respectively, which were sweet music to Williams’ ears.
The result was six sacks for the Saints, their most in 45 regular-season games, and lots of bone-rattling hits on Cutler over the course of the game.
“We did a good job of studying their protections,” Saints weakside linebacker Scott Shanle said. “They’re a little odd in that they don’t pick up the defensive backs and edge rushers. We thought that we could get some good shots on them and had guys running free.
“There’s no secret that (Cutler) was taking a beating,” he added. “We got quite a few sacks when they had to go to a passing mode.”
The six-sack day for the Saints matched the number they recorded on Sept. 24, 2008, against the San Francisco 49ers.
Strong safety Roman Harper and defensive end Junior Galette picked up two sacks each, while weakside linebacker Jonathan Casillas and defensive end Turk McBride also got in on the act, with McBride’s sack causing Cutler to fumble.
“Coming in, we knew that we had an advantage up front against their offensive line,” Galette said. “They gave up the most sacks last season, and it was a huge number. So we thought we could get after the quarterback today.
“Coach (Williams) turned us loose, and we basically keyed on that and turned it into a positive.”
The thing that hurt the Bears was they never knew where it was coming from, and never seemed to make the adjustments needed to stop it.
“The defensive line, linebackers, safeties — we brought a lot of pressure today,” Casillas said. “A lot of times, they gave us a free rush, and we took advantage of our opportunities when we got them.”
“I can’t say they were missed assignments,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said of the Saints’ sacks. “Some were, but when you have that many sacks, it’s a combination of some assignments and some of them (the Saints) winning.
“I give them a lot of credit,” he added. “Most of it was them.”
In addition to being sacked six times, Cutler, who completed just 19 of 45 passes for 244 yards and one TD, was hammered in the second quarter on a blindside blitz by free safety Malcolm Jenkins that left the Bears quarterback woozy for a few minutes.
“That’s how we always play,” Jenkins said. “I think we did a good job early with the pressure, and they struggled a little bit with our blitzes.
“That’s what happens when our offense puts up lots of points. The other team becomes one-dimensional on offense, and we get to play more freely.”
The Bears, who were 2-of-12 on third down, finished with 246 total yards — including 60 rushing. They had no rushing yards in the second half, which only enticed the Saints to turn up the heat.
“That’s the big thing; we made them one-dimensional,” defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis said. “If you can do a good job against the run and get a lead, you can go after them.”
It left Saints wide receiver Devery Henderson, who snagged a 79-yard TD pass in the second quarter to give his team a 10-7 lead, shaking his head.
“I made the comment on the sideline I wouldn’t want to be playing against (the Saints defense) today,” said Henderson, a former LSU star, with a smile. “They were very physical. They made a lot of tackles and big hits, and they really energized us.”