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Opportunistic defense sparks resurgent New Orleans Saints

New Orleans has 12 takeaways during six-game win streak

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

One year ago, the New Orleans Saints defense was the second-worst unit in the league when it came to scoring, allowing 28.4 points per game. The defense had a -3 turnover differential after forcing 21 takeaways (nine interceptions and 12 fumbles).

Fast-forward one year, and thanks to an opportunistic defense and a talented rookie class, New Orleans (6-2) brings a six-game winning streak to New Era Field for Sunday’s 1 p.m. non-conference clash with our Buffalo Bills.

The Saints rank ninth in scoring defense, allowing 19.6 points per game. New Orleans became just the third team in the Super Bowl era to start a season 0-2 and then win its next six games. New Orleans has equaled its interception total from last year in only eight games, and boasts a +3 turnover differential.

What’s the difference from last year to this year? Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore and rookie safety Marcus Williams have made tremendous strides during their first season in the NFL.

Lattimore joins Buffalo’s rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White in the competition for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Lattimore claimed the award for October, one month after White was named September’s Defensive Rookie of the Month. Lattimore has two interceptions. One was returned for a touchdown during a Week 6 win over the Detroit Lions, while the other sealed the 20-12 win over the Chicago Bears in Week 8.

Williams has started every game and has one interception, while veteran Kenny Vaccaro leads the team with three interceptions for 41 yards. Six members of the Saints have interceptions, while New Orleans has also forced 10 fumbles with three fumble recoveries.

All 12 of the Saints’ takeaways have come during the six-game winning streak, when New Orleans has outscored its opponents 182-90.

During the 52-38 win over Detroit, Vaccaro had a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown, Lattimore had a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown, and Cameron Jordan picked off a pass in the end zone for a touchdown as the Saints forced five turnovers while scoring a franchise-record three defensive touchdowns.

Through eight games, these Saints are showing they can win with a defense that capitalizes on opponents’ mistakes.