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New Orleans Saints last in NFC South due to defense

The focus this offseason in New Orleans has been on bounties and the absence of Sean Payton. Maybe it should have been on the Saints' wholesale changes in defensive personnel and scheme.

The Saints are dead last in the NFC South after the Carolina Pantherspushed them around 35-27 on Sunday. Cam Newton had the best rushing day of his career (71 yards and one TD) and averaged more than 12 yards per pass attempt against a Saints defense that doesn't look ready for the 2012 season.

We could pick on the Saints' offensive line, which allowed too much pressure on Drew Brees. The franchise quarterback didn't help by throwing his own pick six early in the game. But the biggest blame for the Saints' 0-2 start goes to a defense that was manhandled for the second consecutive week.

The Panthers rushed for 219 yards; they had 135 by halftime. The secondary blew its coverage on a 66-yard catch by Steve Smith in the second half. The Saints' offense wasn't good enough to catch up for the second consecutive week. New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has new starters at linebackers in Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne. There was a lot of miscommunication on the defensive side of the ball and not a lot of hustle.

It's early, but the sky will be falling in New Orleans this week. The Saints are 0-2. There will be a lot of talk about Drew Brees and Sean Payton, but the real problems are on the other side of the ball.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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