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Rankins on Saints' D: We don't want to be a sideshow

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The New Orleans Saints are in the Upside Down.

The team with the offensive-genius coach, the MVP-candidate quarterback, dynamic running back duo, and matchup-proof receiver is being led by the stingiest of defense.

Over the last six weeks, the Saints have allowed a league-low 74 points. New Orleans leads the NFL in run defense (79.1 rush YPG). The Saints have allowed fewer-than 200 pass yards in four of its last six games. And Dennis Allen's D has generated 3-plus sacks in six straight games, the longest active streak in NFL, and longest such streak since Broncos in Weeks 2-8, 2015 (six games).

The most head-scratching part of the Saints past month is that the defense has risen as the offense floundered. Over the past three games, Drew Brees has thrown for 127 yards, 201 yards, and 203 yards, respectively. Offensively they've played two solid quarters in 12. New Orleans went 2-1 in those games.

For an often-maligned defense, Saints players believe they're simply holding up their end of the bargain.

"I've always said this: We don't want to be a sideshow," defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said, via the Times-Picayune. "We don't want to be the part of the team that gets carried on the way to the championship. We want to be the reason we're able to hoist that Lombardi Trophy in February."

The past month it's the defense that has carried New Orleans.

The Saints have been stingy at every level. Cameron Jordan continues to be an underrated rusher. Rankins destroys interior blockers versus the run and pass. Rookie Marcus Davenport is coming on as a blurring edge rusher. Linebacker Demario Davis is a Pro Bowler. Alex Anzalone makes plays each week. Marshon Lattimore has gotten back to shutting down No. 1 wideouts. Eli Apple (!) is gobbling up PBUs (8 in 8 games since being traded from New York). And Marcus Williams is patrolling the back end with aplomb.

"We've been turning it up, man," Lattimore said. "We just got our swag back from last year. Like I told you at the beginning of the season, we've got to build up every game, get better every game, and that's what we've been doing. And now we feel like can't nobody get a point on us. That's from our hard work."

That work has the Saints in position to secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, where, if history is any indication, Brees will wake up the offense and join a dominant defense to create a January force.

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