Saints Offense vs Falcons Defense
When the Saints last faced off against Atlanta, they had no problem moving the ball down the field. Overall, they averaged 6.1 yards/play and accumulated 24 first downs. With 18 completions for 233 passing yards and 8.1 yards/attempt, Hill was able to have a lot of success.
However, was that really his doing? I have mentioned this in previous pieces, but he benefitted greatly from the usage of play-action passes and high-end production in volatile areas of play (under pressure), meaning that it will be hard to replicate that performance.
Making matters murkier is Hill’s performance last week. Despite being in an extremely favorable game script, he averaged just 3.3 yards/pass, threw an interception, and finished with a 43.2 passer rating.
If that’s what he is going to look like when he isn’t benefitting from all the luck and perfect circumstances in the world, one has to be concerned about the team’s ability to effectively pass the football.
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It is also worth noting that Hill holds onto the ball much longer than Drew Brees did. Atlanta ranks 6th in sack percentage over their past three games, which is not only a testament to their pass rush improving, but also their secondary giving them more time to get after the quarterback.
I expect that to continue to be the case in this game, although receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders did combine for 180 yards in the previous matchup.
With Hill under center, New Orleans suddenly is relying much more on the running game. Hill has four rushing touchdowns and has averaged over 4.5 yards/rush attempt, while the team as a whole is rushing for nearly 200 yards per game.
That said, running backs Latavius Murray and Alvin Kamara only averaged 3.76 yards/rush attempt two weeks ago, so if Atlanta has an answer for hill, their above-average (14th) rush defense should be able to limit the Saints’ success on the ground.
Game script will play a major role in this game. If the Saints can get out to an early lead, Payton can focus on helping Hill on early downs with play-action passes and leveraging the threat of him as a rusher to create easy opportunities for Sanders and Thomas.
If Hill is forced to make plays on his own, however, the balance of power is immediately on the Falcons’ side.