Sep 7, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) tries to break a tackle by New Orleans Saints free safety Rafael Bush (25) during the second half at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons defeated the Saints 37-34 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The NFL is a tough place to win. It’s a league of huge men and even bigger egos. Every week when these men step on the field, regardless of opponent or record, a game can go to any team on any day. This especially holds true in the Saints-Falcons rivalry that fans of both teams have come to love, and at the same time despise due to the heart stopping and gut wrenching finishes that have been experienced between the two teams in the past several years.
Back in Week 1 of this very season, the barn-burner was nothing short of what fans have come to expect out of these two teams, but didn’t end in the favor of the Who Dat Nation. It was your typical NFC south showdown, but it left many wondering if the New Orleans Saints had made all the right moves in the offseason.
Dec 15, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston (12) catches a touchdown pass against Chicago Bears cornerback Demontre Hurst (30) in the first half of their game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
The Saints fell to the Falcons 34-37 in overtime after “ole trusty” Marques Colston fumbled a second down pass from Drew Brees on the second play of the drive. This gave the Dirty Birds the ball at the New Orleans 38 yard line and after a couple of running plays and an incompletion from quarterback Matt Ryan, Matt Bryant drilled a 52-yard field goal to seal the game, and send the black and gold home sulking.
Matt Ryan torched the Saints secondary for 448 yards (a Falcons record) and 3 touchdowns on 31 for 43 passing. He was masterful at spreading the ball around to nine different receivers, with those touchdowns going to three different receivers.
It was a horrible performance by the boys on the back-end, as there were many busted coverages and less than stellar play from new and highly touted safety, Jairus Byrd. He constantly found himself out of position and unable to close on the ball.
Not a lot has changed from the performance that Saints put together that day. It’s been a season of ups and downs riddled with injury and roster changes that have led to questions of leadership and maturity across the board.
However, I do believe the Saints have found something on the defensive side of the ball over the past couple of weeks, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The NFC South division championship is on the line, and the Saints were all but able to shut down Jay Cutler and the Bears on this past Monday night. All fans of the black and gold can do is hope and pray that it wasn’t a fluke and the hunger and energy carries over into the Superdome this Sunday.
Sep 8, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (76) and defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (77) tackle Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson (39) during a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Falcons 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
My five keys to the Saints coming out of the battle victorious:
The defensive line must play with the same fire and desire they did with against the Bears. It all starts in the trenches. To most, the mess that ensues around the line following the snap just looks like a cluster of huge bodies sumo wrestling. Fact is, It’s an absolute necessity that the big guys create as much mess and havoc this week and put the pressure on Matt Ryan early and free up the lanes for the linebackers to stop the run. They need to occupy as many blockers as possible all while maintaining proper body mechanics to be in position to make a play.
4. Run Game
Back in Week One the Saints rushed for 139 yards and 3 touchdowns as a unit. I would like to see the backfield involved early and often, whether utilizing the screen game with Pierre Thomas or pounding it between the tackles with Mark Ingram. If Ingram shows early that he can shoulder the bulk of the workload, the Saints should stay with him, as he has shown that when he gets in a rhythm he can be very dangerous.
If the defensive line can do what was mentioned above, it should force the not quite so mobile Matt Ryan (although he didn’t look it in Week One when he was able to evade a few sacks and even run for a first down or two) into forcing some throws, giving the revamped defensive backfield the opportunity to make some plays on the ball similar to last week. Keep an eye on cornerback Terrance Frederick, as he will need to have a huge game against a quartet of receivers that are as good as any in the game.
2. Drew Brees
If Sean Payton can dial-up the run game early and have success, I expect to see Drew Brees absolutely torch the last ranked pass defense in the league with a mix of play action, screen game, and big shots. If he doesn’t force anything and can avoid throwing the big interception, I look for a stat line something similar to last week’s 360 yard, 3 touchdown performance.
1. Superdome Atmosphere
It’s time for the WhoDatNation to show the “Dirty Birds” what “Rise Up” really means! This should no doubt be a record-breaking performance for the Who Dat’s in the Superdome. That earth-shaking rumble should be in the heads of the Falcons offense from the first play until the clock hits zero. That is why I have chosen this as my number ONE key to winning this huge game.
I’m taking the Saints in this one, but it’s going to be another close one Saints fans.
Who Dat and God bless you all!