METAIRIE — Through the first two games of the season, the defenses of the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs have been mirror images of one another.
But at this point, they don’t like what they’re seeing.
The Saints and Chiefs have each allowed 75 points, the most in the NFL, in their 0-2 starts. Both have had plenty of trouble stopping opponents in giving up 461.0 and 377.5 total yards, respectively, and they have just one takeaway between them.
Which is why Chiefs second-year coach Romeo Crennel, whose team takes on the Saints on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, sees a little bit of his team in the one it’ll face this week.
“I think our team is similar to their team defensively,” Crennel said Wednesday. “Teams have been able to move the ball and score points, and we haven’t been able to stop them enough.”
Similarly, it’s been a hot topic of conversation for Saints fans.
They’ve had to watch quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton run and pass new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s unit silly with their read-option attacks in the first two weeks of the season.
Crennel, a highly regarded defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots when they won three Super Bowls in a four-year span, can certainly commiserate with what the Saints had to face.
“Anytime you play an option offense, defensively you have to make some adjustments and be able to handle everything that is involved in that option,” Crennel said. “You have to handle the dive, quarterback and pitch. Then, if you have a quarterback that can throw the ball, you still have to handle the passing aspect of it.
“That doesn’t allow you to do some things that you would normally do against a more conventional offense,” he said.
That’s exactly what Spagnuolo and the Saints have been saying after giving up 459 yards to the Washington Redskins in the opener and 463 yards to the Carolina Panthers last week.
While the yardage was tough enough to take, the points also came in bunches with the Redskins and Panthers getting eight touchdowns and four field goals in 22 meaningful possessions.
Spagnuolo said earlier in the week it was understandable if the team’s fans were starting to get impatient with his defense.
“I don’t have a lot of patience myself, so I can’t blame them if they’re impatient,” he said. “I guess my message would be is that there isn’t a coach or player on the defensive side of the ball that isn’t working as hard as they can to correct it.
“I don’t think we’re that far off quite, honestly,” he said. “That’s seeing the glass half-full, which I choose to do, and I know our players will do the same thing.”
Saints middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and many of his teammates were thinking about that when they started preparing for the Chiefs and Matt Cassel, a pro-style quarterback who rarely leaves the pocket.
“They’ve got a more conventional offense, so we can start playing more of our defense and not have to worry about a quarterback running,” Lofton said while noting that Cassel is athletic and can run some. “But it’s going to be exciting to actually go out there and play against a conventional offense.”
At the same time, Lofton joked it wouldn’t surprise him if the Chiefs put in the read-option this week to take advantage of the vulnerable defense.
“After the past couple of weeks, it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t do some of that,” he said while trying to manage a smile. “But we’re prepared, we’ve just got to go out and improve.”
Lofton said the Saints were shooting themselves in the foot trying to keep up with the flashy footwork of Griffin and Newton.
“I’m not going to let coach Spags take the bullet for us,” he said. “It’s (up to) us as players to go out there and execute. When you play quarterbacks like that, everyone has to be disciplined. One guy can’t miss his fit or miss his assignment, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Cornerback Jabari Greer said the Saints have enough talent to get their act together after that rough start.
“We just really have to look at the film and see what we need to do to get better,” Greer said. “We realize that we haven’t put the best product out on the field and we’re committed to making sure we do that.
“It’s early in the season, but it’s also a great sense of urgency to get this thing corrected,” he said. “This is where we’re going to face ourselves and face our shortcomings. Nobody envisioned this start, but this is where we are.”