Falcons Offense vs Saints Defense
The Saints didn’t just have success offensively two weeks ago; their defense limited the Falcons to nine points and 4.2 yards/play.
The main reason for that was New Orleans’ pass defense. They sacked Matt Ryan eight times, including three from Cameron Jordan, two from Trey Hendrickson, and two from David Onyemata.
Last time, I highlighted Jordan vs right tackle Kaleb McGary and Onyemata against Atlanta’s interior offensive line as two matchups the Saints could exploit, and it will be interesting to see if they can take over this game again.
I’d reminisce to not mention their improvements in pass coverage as well.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins is questionable to play, and if he does, he’ll look to replicate a performance in which he had five pass deflections and an interception, while slot corner Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has also been a force to be reckoned with.
Now, New Orleans will also be able to replace Patrick Robinson with a healthy Marshon Lattimore, while the Falcons will likely not have elite receiver Julio Jones, which should increase the Saints’ effectiveness.
Then again, the Falcons still have Ryan, in addition to star receiver Calvin Ridley. Ridley totaled 90 yards in the team’s first matchup, while slot receiver Russell Gage also had 58 yards.
Ridley’s big-play ability is something to keep an eye on, and was a factor in the previous game; Atlanta’s first play of the game involved him beating Janoris Jenkins over the top. However, after that, the Saints were able to limit him and the Falcons’ overall explosiveness, and that has to be the focus once again,
The addition of linebacker Kwon Alexander has really benefitted the team’s middle-of-the-field coverage, and it showed when they were able to hold tight end Hayden Hurst to zero receptions. At the same time, Hurst is average 41.7 yards/game and ought to be targeted often if Jones doesn’t play, so he is a major X-Factor in this game.
It’s unclear if running back Todd Gurley will play, but it’d almost be better for the Saints if he does. He is averaging just 3.7 yards/rush attempt, and anything that not only de-incentives the Falcons to pass, but takes away a receiving outlet (Gurley is far inferior as a receiver to Brian Hill) is useful. New Orleans is tied for first in rushing yards allowed/attempt, so I’m sure they are far more concerned with defending the pass than the run.
The Saints have the pass rush to take advantage of Ryan’s tendency to hold onto the ball too long, particularly with Jones out.
At the same time, this isn’t an easy offense to shut down twice, so assuming they will only score nine points this time around would be foolish. How New Orleans fares against Hurst, as well as their ability to limit explosive passes, may ultimately determine the outcome of this game