Saints show improvement in NFL defensive stats

Saints’ fans still celebrating a season-opening 23-17 win against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday have something else to smile about: the Saints aren’t last in the NFL in total defense.

In fact, they’re far from it.

After a disastrous 2012 season in which the Saints set an NFL record in allowing 7,042 total yards and finishing last among the 32 teams against the run and 31st against the pass, there were some positive results from new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s group on Sunday.

According to NFL Week 1 stats, the Saints rank 18th in total defense after giving up 367 yards to the potent Falcons’ offense. They’re 19th against the run and 20th against the pass after giving up 88 and 279 yards, respectively, in those categories Sunday.

The Saints’ defense is also tied for seventh in points allowed and is tied for ninth with three sacks, two areas in which they also ranked near the bottom of the league a year ago.

On offense, the Saints are eighth in total yards after piling up 419 against the Falcons. They’re fifth in passing after picking up 341 yards and 19th in rushing after netting 78 yards in the season-opening victory.

Also, the Saints are tied for ninth at plus-1 in the giveaway-takeaway differential.

Here are the pertinent numbers for Sunday’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Bucs in Raymond James Stadium (NFL rank in parentheses):

SAINTS

Offense: Total yards, 419.0 (8); rushing, 78.0 (19); passing, 341.0 (5); scoring, 23.0 (t17).

Defense: Total yards, 367.0 (18); rushing, 88.0 (19); passing, 279.0 (20); scoring, 17.0 (t7).

BUCS

Offense: Total yards, 250.0 (29); rushing, 65.0 (t24); passing, 185.0 (23); scoring, 17.0 (t24).

Defense: Total yards, 304.0 (12); rushing, 90.0 (t26); passing, 214.0 (12); scoring, 18.0 (10).