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New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons; A tale of two offensive lines

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The NFC South started Wildcard Weekend with two representatives. After today, there can be only one.

There are a slew of pieces that have to fall into place to make the great teams great and other teams not so great on offense.

Great quarterback play, a running threat, and sure handed ball catchers are key elements to winning offenses.

The glue that makes everything else possible is solid and consistent offensive line play.

The New Orleans Saints have one of, if not the best, offensive lines in the league. The Pro Bowl selection of Bushrod, Evans, and Nicks as starters validates that statement.

Add de la Puente and Strief to the mix, and you have the recipe for the success the Saints have had so far this season.

You only have to look at the drive chart from the Wildcard Playoff game against the Detroit Lions for proof.

Saints vs Lions Drive Chart

Drives: 8 TDs: 6 FGs: 1 Turnovers: 2 Punts:0

New Orleans converted 7 of 11 for 64% third downs, which is much higher than their season average of 56%. They were also 3 of 4 for 75% on fourth down (The one failed conversion was a kneel down to end the game, though).

The stat that stands out more than anything else, 0 punts. Every opportunity the Saints had to sustain drives and keep pounding the Lions (other than the two fumbles) turned into successful drives because of offensive line play.

The result: 626 yards of offense and a 45-28 drubbing of the Detroit Lions.

Compare this to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday against the New York Giants.