One of the most storied sayings in all of sports is “defense wins championships”. The Buccaneers showed this to be true after last year’s Super Bowl victory and with the increase in talent on offenses in the NFL, a good defense is becoming more and more important. Week one was full of excitement on defense and a few teams really established themselves as elite. Let’s take a look at which defenses had the best start to the season.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints versus Packers game was arguably the biggest surprise of the week as the New Orleans routed Aaron Rodgers and the Pack 38-3. The majority of the chatter surrounding this game is about Jameis Winston and his five-touchdown performance but the truly impressive performance was that of the defense. The black and gold held 2020 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers to a stat line of 15 of 28, 133 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, a 13.5 QBR, and a passer rating of 36.8. This is one of the worst stat lines Rodgers has ever had. The defensive line was dominant, Demario Davis, Kwon Alexander, and Zack Baun really impressed at the linebacker spot holding the Pack to a grand total of 43 rushing yards, Marshon Lattimore put the clamps on DaVante Adams, rookie CB Paulson Adebo had a huge pick in the red zone and showed some exceptional man coverage skills especially considering this was his first real action since 2019 after opting out in 2020, and FS Marcus Williams showed just how impressive his range was on Rodgers’ second interception of the day. If the Saints’ defense continues to play the way they did in Jacksonville, there will be nothing they can’t do.
Defensive MVP: CB Paulson Adebo
The Cards showed up big on Sunday against the “high-powered” offense of the Tennessee Titans. The big storyline from this defensive domination is OLB Chandler Jones’ five sack showing against Titans “star” tackle Taylor Lewan but this defense played very well as a whole. The Cardinals’ defensive line was creating pressure all day long and it was clear that quarterback Ryan Tannehill was uncomfortable in the pocket. JJ Watt and Corey Peters dominated against the interior offensive line and stunned the 2019 and 2020 NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry by holding him to a slim 58 yards on 17 carries. The biggest question mark on the Cardinals defense was cornerbacks Robert Alford and rookie Marco Wilson. Upon reviewing the film, they were exposed a few times but more than held their own against the elite wide receiver duo of Julio Jones and A.J. Brown holding them to a combined 78 yards and a touchdown on 7 catches. That’s quite impressive considering what we expected Jones and Brown to hang on this Cardinals secondary. Budda Baker did his thing playing absolutely everywhere and always ending up at the ball. I was very impressed with the play of second-year linebacker Isaiah Simmons. He finally played how we were all hoping he would and wore multiple hats for the Cardinals in their 38-13 domination against Tennessee. If they can keep this up, the Cardinals are going deeper than just the first round of the playoffs this year.
Defensive MVP: ILB Isaiah Simmons/OLB Chandler Jones
We should’ve known it was foolish to doubt this Steelers defense. The Steelers have an elite defense whether they have an awful season or a great season. It all starts with the pass rush for the Steelers. On Thursday the Steelers inked standout OLB TJ Watt to an extension that makes him the highest paid defender in the NFL and he earned every cent of it. Watt and new addition Melvin Ingram were terrorizing Josh Allen from the first snap to the last while Cameron Heyward dominated the interior. Linebackers Devin Bush and Joe Schobert were sideline to sideline on Sunday making sure nothing could get to the outside. The linebacker duo also impressed with their coverage skills against the Bills’ fleet of running backs and tight ends. As for the secondary, they really showed out. Joe Haden locked up one of the most prolific wide receivers from last year in Stefon Diggs while Cam Sutton and James Pierre held it down on Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley, and Gabe Davis who are all quite talented themselves. Minkah Fitzpatrick was patrolling the deep middle in an elite fashion as he has done for two seasons now while breaking up passes and flying around the field to make tackles. This is a very complete Steelers defense that is well coached and is already looking like a well oiled machine.
Defensive MVP: OLB TJ Watt