The New Orleans Saints are 2-2 at their bye week, having balanced an 0-2 start with consecutive wins.
The recent success prevented the first month from being a disaster, but was just a starting point for what it will take to improve on three consecutive 7-9 finishes.
The goal going forward, beginning with a game against Detroit on Oct. 15 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, is to build on the momentum of the last two games and avoid any more stretches like the first two games.
"We haven't figured everything out," guard Larry Warford said. "It's a constant process. Every week is going to be a challenge. It's too early. The NFL is crazy, you don't know what's going to happen. All we can do is try to do what we have been doing the last two weeks, but better."
The defense has been much better the last two weeks compared to the first two weeks.
In losses to Minnesota and New England, New Orleans allowed averages of 32.5 points, 26 first downs, 124 rushing yards, 388.5 passing yards and 512.5 total yards. In victories against Carolina and Miami, it allowed averages of 6.5 points, 14.5 first downs, 95 rushing yards, 142 passing yards and 237 total yards.
"I think sometimes you need that shock and that wakeup call to let you know where you are at and what you need to do to get better and I think our guys really focused on the things that they needed to do for us to improve as a defense," defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. "At least over the last two weeks, I think they were more accountable as to what their responsibility was and the things they need to do within the defense to allow us to be successful.
"I think rarely are things as bad as they seem and rarely are they as good as they seem. I think the truth lies somewhere in between, but our deal is we are searching to find that consistency because that's what the really good teams are. They are consistent and you don't have a lot of these peaks and valleys and I think that's what we have to strive to improve on."
Second-year cornerback Ken Crawley has had two good games in a row after being inactive for the first two games. He started against Carolina because Marshon Lattimore was inactive due to a concussion, and he started against Miami because P.J. Williams was benched reportedly for disciplinary reasons. The Dolphins drove 81 yards on the first possession of the game before Crawley intercepted Jay Cutler in the end zone.
"Guys did not want to go through (being) the last defense in the league (like) last year," Crawley said of the turnaround. "We had goals to be in the top 10 or top 20, just cracking that and I think guys got it through their head. We didn't always want to depend on the offense. The team is known for (offense), we want to be known as a defensive-oriented team."
On offense, the Saints would like to be a little more balanced. They rank fourth in passing yards per game (276.5) and 22nd in rushing yards per game (94.0). That disparity is partly due to New Orleans having to lean on the pass inordinately in the first two games when it trailed by at least 10 points for the entire second halves.
The most important statistic for the Saints is the zero turnovers they have committed.
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