NEW ORLEANS — Rumors of Patrick Robinson’s demotion, it seems, were premature.
He was taken out of last week’s loss at Denver in the second half, not because of ineffectiveness but because he was gassed by the thin air of Mile High.
Then, just imagine how Robinson must have felt after his 99-yard interception return that gave the Saints the defensive spark they needed against the Philadelphia Eagles in Monday’s 28-13 victory in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The third-year cornerback ducked out without speaking Monday, but Jabari Greer, his counterpart on the other side of the field, spoke to the importance of the play and the player.
“Honestly, to have a game-changing play in a game such as this, it’s a great, great thing for our team and for him,” Greer said. “Pat works extremely hard.
“And to have that type of effort is a testament of how hard he works.
“He’s been studying, watching film, practicing hard. You’ve got to feel good for something like that to happen.”
It was a night when the entire Saints defense could feel good about itself, although it did little to improve its position as the No. 32 unit in the league by giving up 442 yards to Michael Vick and the Eagles.
But the key number was 13 — as in points, 11 less than any of the Saints’ first seven opponents had scored.
Vick’s 77-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson certainly will make Best Plays on SportsCenter.
But it was the only time the Eagles were able to penetrate the Saints goal line.
They reached the red zone five times, including one 10-play sequence in the fourth quarter when the game was not quite out of reach.
But the visitors wound up with only two field goals.
“The more plays the other team runs down there, the harder it gets,” interim coach Joe Vitt said, “But we held them out.
“We work hard in the red zone. I think our players are starting to get confidence in the way Spags (defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) wants us to play in the red zone. It was great.”
Equally impressive was the pressure the Saints were able to get on Vick, sacking him seven times with an equal number of pressures.
End Cameron Jordan provided the first of those sacks, causing Vick to fumble in the process, The Eagles recovered, but for a 22-yard loss, turning second-and-13 from the Saints 30 to third-and-35 from the Philly 48.
“We saw that we might have a lot of opportunities to get to Vick,” Jordan said. “It turned out that way.
“I sure liked the one I got. Like I said, we knew there would be some opportunities, and we took advantage of them.”
Vick was able to give the defense problems, as did running back LeSean McCoy, who consistently was able to turn back to the inside after starting outside. McCoy finished with 119 yards on 19 carries.
But 106 of those came in the first half as the Eagles did little but throw after falling behind by two touchdowns late in the third quarter.
“They got some big plays here and there,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “Vick’s always able to buy time.
“But we challenged their receivers and made them work for everything they got. We gave them a bunch of plays in the red zone, but we stepped up when we had to.”
No one, it turned out, more than Robinson.
“That’s potentially a 14-point swing,” Vitt said. “You can’t do more on defense than that.”
But, Greer pointed out, the defense’s satisfaction with a job well done will be short-lived.
Shorter than usual because playing on Monday night means one less day to prepare for the next game.
And when that next opponent is the undefeated Atlanta Falcons back in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, it’s extremely short.
“We’re going to enjoy this one for the next 20 minutes,” he said, “and then get ready for another big one. They’re all big from now on.”