Did you notice the Saints run defense looked as good as it has all season holding Atlanta running back Michael Turner to only 48 yards on seventeen carries.
New Orleans was gashed last week by Ray Rice in their loss to the Ravens when he rushed for 153 yards and the common thought was that Turner was going to find the same success.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams put together an aggressive scheme specifically to stop the run stacking the “box” with at last seven or more defenders throughout the game.
The defensive line was able to maintain their gaps and string out their protection to the side line leaving Turner no where to run virtually all night.
Did you notice that veteran linebacker Danny Clark, who has started nine games as the strong side linebacker, was inactive and was replaced by Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
Dunbar had a superb game leading the team with six tackles (3 for loss) and was a big factor in the Saints improved rush defense.
Given that Gregg Williams is always looking for the optimum arrangement of defensive players, coupled with his success against Atlanta, Dunbar will probably remain the starter until further notice.
Did you notice how disruptive defensive end Will Smith was as he constantly harassed Falcon’s quarterback Matt Ryan.
He finished the game with three tackles and one sack but he spent the majority of his time keeping Ryan flustered and flushed from the pocket which resulted in numerous errant throws.
Often Smith is criticized for not producing the eye popping sacks totals that are common among the elite defensive ends and linebackers in the game today.
However his ability to keep Matt Ryan off tempo and off his spot was a direct factor in the Saints defense being able to limit the Falcons offense to 3 of 17 on third downs for a 25% conversion rate.
Did you notice the Saints were penalized eight times for 92 yards including three back-to-back penalties that aided the Falcons one and only scoring drive, a touchdown pass to receiver Roddy White.
Currently the Saints are the 11th worst team in the NFL when it comes to penalties averaging 5.7 a game and are 31st worst in the league when considering how much yardage they surrender per penalty at 9.9 yards per call.
Do the math and the Saints are surrendering 60 yards a game to opposing teams and considering that the NFL is a game of inches those yards can have a tremendous impact on the outcome of a game.
Guard Jahri Evans continues to be one of the most penalized in the NFL, and while his increase in penalties may have more to do with the way referees are now positioned on the field, his holding calls continue to be a problem.
New Orleans has to clean it up entering the post season or it may result in an early exit for the raining Super Bowl champs.
Did you notice how elusive Drew Brees was in the pocket as he was able to escape pressure several times and avoid more than a few sacks. In fact for as much as the Falcons defense blitzed Brees was sacked only once.
It was quite an amazing feat on his behalf as it became quickly apparent that Atlanta’s defensive game plan was to stop Brees by throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him.
Since Brees came over to the Saints in 2006 I can’t recall a game where he was blitzed more than yesterday’s and he still managed to throw for 302 yards and the game winning touchdown.
He is the best, enough said.
Check out Keith Null’s weekly article about the Saints on NFL.com by clicking here.