Back in the early days of training camp in late July, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams noted the lockout of players gave him a lot more time to scout the first few opponents on this year’s schedule - teams they don’t see as often as others.
When Williams studied the Chicago Bears, he had to be excited about what he saw: an opportunity to open his playbook and unleash a furious pass rush against a team that gave up 56 sacks a year ago.
Allowing five sacks in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons last week only added more fuel to Williams’ fire - which resulted in six sacks, numerous hits and assorted pressures on Jay Cutler in the Saints’ 30-13 win Sunday in the Superdome.
While the relentless performance thoroughly frustrated Cutler, it left Saints wide receiver Devery Henderson, who snagged a 79-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to give his team a lead it would never relinquish, shaking his head.
“I made the comment on the sideline I wouldn’t want to be playing against (the Saints defense) today,” he said with a smile. “They were very physical. They made a lot of tackles and big hits, and they really energized us.”
Exhibit A would be the blind-side hit free safety Malcolm Jenkins put on Cutler early in the second quarter.
Jenkins came free, as many of the Saints’ defenders did on a busy afternoon, and walloped Cutler as he tried to deliver the football to a receiver. The pass wound up falling harmlessly to the turf, and, after another incompletion, he appeared to be woozy as he headed to his team’s bench.
It was, to be sure, one of those “remember me” hits that Williams famously predicted the Saints would deliver to Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLIV.
There were other big hits, of course, as the eager Saints took turns going after Cutler, who wound up completing 19 of 45 passes for 244 yards. Only eight of his completions went to his wide receivers as he had little time to wait for them to get open.
It was a nice rebound for a defense that was skillfully carved up by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a 42-34 loss to open the season on Sept. 8.
“We turned up the intensity today,” said defensive end Junior Galette, who had recorded two of the Saints’ six sacks. “That was kind of disappointing last week. That wasn’t up to our standard of play and not what Gregg wants us to accomplish.
“We took it to heart this week and practiced real hard. I thought we were more crisp this week. We had a lot of great pressure and were at the right place at the right time, and went after it.”
Jenkins certainly agreed.
“This was the kind of game we needed to have to say we have a good defense, too,” he said. “That’s the type of defensive effort we have to have every week. We weren’t going to stop; we just keep going and going until the end of the game.”