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10 Sep 2019, 07:33

METAIRIE New Orleans Saints Ken Crawley Jersey , La. (AP) — No matter how much New Orleans’ defense may have improved since this season’s opening week, linebacker Alex Anzalone doesn’t see the benefit in dismissing as irrelevant the 48 points the Saints surrendered in a Week 1 loss to the Buccaneers.“In the back of our minds, if anything, it’s just motivation to be on your Ps and Qs this week,” Anzalone said this week, as New Orleans prepared for the rematch in Tampa Bay. “They do have a really good offense. They have a bunch of play makers, so we know what they’re capable of. There’s a lot of motivation for this game, but as a defense, that could definitely be one of them.”In Week 1, New Orleans’ busted coverages led to a 529-yard day for the Buccaneers’ offense, highlighted by touchdown passes of 58 and 36 yards to DeSean Jackson and 50 yards to Mike Evans. Tampa Bay’s offense accounted 41 points, with one Buccaneers TD coming on safety Justin Evans‘ fumble return.Yet the Saints defense that was on the field that day scarcely resembles the one playing practically lights out for the past month.The Saints have held each of their last four foes to between 7 and 17 points.“That’s huge in this league when you can hold a team to under 20 points, especially with the offense we’ve got,” Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. “I’m going to bet on us most times.”Confidence is surging. Botched assignments are few. Sacks and turnovers have risen sharply. New Orleans has sacked opposing QBs 13 times in the past two games, during which they’ve also taken the ball away six times.“It’s been impressive,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “As a coach Womens Ken Crawley 2019 Jersey , you’re encouraged because we’re receiving good end play, but we’re also receiving great tackle play and I think inside we’ve really been able to push the pocket.”Those recent performances have made New Orleans’ season-opening stumble look more like ancient history.“That was a lot of first-game errors that we had to work out,” Anzalone said. “It wasn’t necessarily who we were as a defense. It was just something that we weren’t locked in enough or didn’t execute enough to get the job done.”Rankins, a first round draft choice in 2016, is having arguably his best season with seven sacks. Five of his sacks have come since Week 8.Like the rest of the Saints defense, he did not have a sack in Week 1.If the Bucs study game video from their previous meeting, Rankins said, they’ll see the same scheme New Orleans us using now, but vastly different execution.“With the way we’ve been playing, I think they’re going to have to try to attack us in a different way,” he said.Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said he sees a Saints defense that has “evolved,” both in terms of young players improving as well as with some key personnel changes, such as a mid-season trade to bring in cornerback Eli Apple from the New York Giants. Apple quickly took over as starter in place of Ken Crawley.“Their defense is playing pretty well at this time, all the way across,” Koetter said.If New Orleans’ defense has been consistent in one area, it has been against the run. The Saints have been near the top of the NFL in that department all season and rank first through 12 games Cheap Ken Crawley Youth Jersey , and that’s not simply because opponents are choosing to pass more against them, Koetter said.“They’re playing with the lead a lot, and teams are throwing the ball,” Koetter began. “Still, when you watch the tape you go, ‘Man these guys are pretty good against the run.’ I think their front seven is really playing hard.”Notes: WR Michael Thomas practiced fully on Thursday after resting his sore ankle on Wednesday. … Offensive tackles Terron Armstead (chest) and Ryan Ramczyk (shoulder) were listed as limited on the practice report. DeMarcus Lawrence may not reach his career high in sacks during the encore to the Dallas defensive end's breakthrough season in the NFL.By any measure from his coaches and teammates, Lawrence's follow-up to 14 1/2 sacks has been a success . A big one."With the things that we've changed in the defense, he has to more disciplined in the run and things of that sort," defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford said. "Sacks are a good number for everybody else mainly. As far as a good player on a good defense, you're not going to find a better one."Lawrence has 8 1/2 sacks through 12 games. The fifth-year pro had that many in five games last year. But Lawrence collected his first career interception on a screen pass two games ago against Washington before helping lead the defense's signature moment in 2018.The Cowboys bottled up Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in a 13-10 win that set them up for sole possession of first place in the NFC East. Dallas took that spot with the Redskins' loss to Philadelphia.Now Dallas (7-5) gets its rematch with the Eagles (6-6) on Sunday, with first place on the line just as it was on Thanksgiving against Washington. The Cowboys started their current four-game winning streak with a victory in Philadelphia."I have my ups and down this season. No complaining about it," Lawrence said. "I really embrace this season. It just shows how much we really care, how much I really care, just because of how we're standing as a defense. I feel like everything is looking up."And that was before the Cowboys held the Saints to 176 yards, their lowest total in 22 years and more than 200 yards below their season average. While rookie Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have taken a large share of the spotlight at linebacker, Lawrence's presence up front is significant.Lawrence has played the most snaps among defensive linemen by more than 100. He's getting the blocking attention of someone who tied for second in the NFL in sacks a year ago. And he's still stopping the run White Ryan Ramczyk Jersey , something defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli says Lawrence has always done well."I think he is absolutely playing dynamic in every phase of the game," Marinelli said. "He's from sideline to sideline to screens to picking a screen off, to doing things exactly right. He can do everything. And he leads this defense by his effort. He's relentless."Crawford believes another look at film from last season would reveal more missed assignments by Lawrence than this season, another reason to pick other things over sacks as the measure of Lawrence's worth. Lawrence also embraced the intangibles coming off his first big year."The guy has worked harder than I've ever seen him work, especially throughout the offseason and into the season," Crawford said. "He's become more of a leader in the locker room. The guy's been balling. He's just got to keep it up."Lawrence's first season with double-digit sacks led to his first Pro Bowl and a franchise tag worth $17.1 million . The 26-year-old happily signed it, believing the security of a long-term contact would follow another solid season.The sides never got close on that deal last offseason, and the question of another year on the franchise tag will hover until they get close, if they do. Lawrence has never let himself get bothered by that question."Last year is last year," he said. "Ain't nobody saying, 'OK, D-Law had 14 1/2 sacks, he deserves the Pro Bowl this year or he deserves to be in the Super Bowl.' It's all on me. Like I said, I embrace it. Absolutely I want to be better than 14 1/2 and I've got to keep working day in and day out in order to get there."The Cowboys are measuring in other ways.