FOXBOROUGH — Historically speaking, the New Orleans Saints had the worst defense the NFL has ever seen last season.
The Saints gave up 7,042 yards, breaking a league record that had stood for 31 seasons. They also allowed 434 points, a number topped just once since the franchise’s 1967 debut, by the 1980 “Aints.”
With the Saints reeling from a bounty scandal that resulted in head coach Sean Payton sitting out the entire season, 2012 quickly turned into a lost, forgotten year. They finished 7-9 and ended a streak of three consecutive playoff appearances.
Cheer up, Saints fans. Payton is back, and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has come to the rescue, transforming a unit that was an embarrassment a year ago into a surprising team strength. Full story for BostonGlobe.com subscribers.