By Abraham Gutierrez
Two unbeaten teams square off in the Bayou, as the surprising (3-0) Miami Dolphins take on the “Who Dat” (3-0) New Orleans Saints in this week’s edition of Monday Night Football.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the “Big Easy” will be the site for this interconference showdown, scheduled to kickoff at 8:40 p.m. ET.
Post “Bountygate” Saints
After one of the biggest scandals in NFL history, order has been restored and focus is once again on football in “Who Dat Nation.”
Head coach Sean Peyton was reinstated following a yearlong suspension, and with a few changes, New Orleans is back to its winning ways.
Saints on Defense
Last year’s defense ranked 32nd against the run (2,361 yards allowed) and 31st versus the pass (4,681 yards allowed), which led to the firing of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and secondary coach Ken Flajole on Peyton’s third day back on the job.
In his absence, the Saints gave up a single-season worst 7,042 yards – a record previously held by the 1981 Baltimore Colts (6,793 yards allowed) – and a change in philosophy was desperately needed.
They quickly moved from a 4-3 base to a 3-4 alignment and brought in defensive guru, Rob Ryan, to help install this new aggressive approach.
After three weeks, the changes have certainly paid off, as New Orleans’ “D” is ranked fifth in the league in points (12.7), total yards allowed (295.7) and passing yards allowed (184.3), and 20th against the rush (111.3 yards allowed).
Players like defensive ends Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan have been solid up front early on, while linebackers Junior Galette and Martez Wilson have done a tremendous job after the loss of (OLB) Will Smith (knee) in the preseason.
Saints on Offense
It’s no secret that New Orleans possesses one of the most explosive, high-scoring offenses in the National Football League, and it’ll only get better as the season progresses.
Led by future Hall of Fame quarterback, Drew Brees, the Saints feature a vertical passing game with plenty of downfield options and big-play opportunities.
The latest fad around the league is the implementation of two tight end formations, and the Saints are all over it in 2013.
The addition of Benjamin Watson to a receiving corps that includes (TE) Jimmy Graham and wide receivers, Marques Colston and Lance Moore, makes this team almost impossible to guard.
Having that said, the one area that could use some improvement is the running game. But much like the rest of the offense, it’s just a matter of time before OC Pete Carmichael Jr. gets that going in the right direction.
Last season the Saints had four running backs who rushed for at least 200 yards. And although they’re down to three this year, this would certainly be a case of quality over quantity.
Coming out of the backfield, New Orleans has Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles sharing the workload on the ground. After three weeks, the Saints rank 16th in points (23.3), sixth in total yards (404.3), fourth in passing yards (318.7) and 24th in rushing yards per game (85.7).
Miami’s Keys to Success
The keys to Miami’s success will be to turn this into a defensive struggle and keep Brees off the field as long as possible. The Dolphins come in leading the overall head-to-head series 6-4 over the Saints. The last time they met dates back to October 25, 2009, when New Orleans prevailed by a final score of 46-34 in Miami.
For more Dolphins news and updates, visit Dolphins Central.
Abe Gutierrez is a criminal justice admin whose love for sports led him to become a writer and editor. His expertise makes him a valued addition to Examiner.com and its partners. His work can be found on Examiner.com. .