Monday, September 9, 2013

Falcons vs. Saints Week 1 Thoughts

The Falcons opened up the 2013 regular season in New Orleans against a Saints team that had plenty to prove. A year ago, the Falcons were mere yards away from going to the Super Bowl, while the Saints were, statistically, the worst defense in NFL history. But in the Falcons-Saints rivalry, none of that matters.

The Saints played inspired as they had their coach, Sean Peyton, on the sideline with them for the first time since a divisional playoff game in January of 2012. The Saints also had more confidence, defensively, because they hired Rob Ryan as the defensive coordinator over the offseason. 

It was a hard fought game- which is typical for a Falcons-Saints matchup- but ultimately, the Saints held on to beat the Falcons 23-17. Falcons head coach, Mike Smith, is a strong believer in the "24-hour rule"; This means that everyone on the team should be over the previous game within 24 hours of its conclusion whether it's a win, loss, or a tie. I'll break down what I saw from the Falcons in each phase of the game (offense, defense, and special teams.)

Matt Ryan and the offense were, clearly, a little nervous on the first possession of the ball game, but they looked really well on their second possession. Harry Douglas had a great catch and run for 50 yards. Due to an ankle injury, Roddy White wasn't 100 percent healthy, so Harry Douglas had to step up to the plate. Also, Tony Gonzalez made a very athletic play on the goal-line for a touchdown that put Atlanta up 7-0. 

The Falcons did a good job of taking advantage of the great field position on their next drive. That drive started from the Saints 45-yard line. I'm sure they would've prefered a touchdown, but settling for 3 points is better than getting 0 points. 

Julio Jones' fumble was very uncharacteristic of him. He did the same thing in 2011 at New Orleans as well. He knows he's got to hang on to the ball, don't expect Julio to "cough it up" any time soon. Although, he made up for the fumble with a 4-yard touchdown catch in the 2nd half. 

Steven Jackson did a good job as well. He showed everyone why the Falcons signed him in the offseason. He showed his explosiveness through running and receiving for a grand total of 122 yards. 

Now on to the things that Atlanta must work on:
The offensive line showed fatigue and the Saints took full advantage of it. The Saints were in Matt Ryan's face all day and ended up with a few sacks. The Falcons' offensive line needs to work on its stamina. No disrespect, but the Saints defense is not that good. The Falcons have to play the Panthers (twice), Seahawks, 49ers, and Packers. All of those defenses are good at getting to the quarterback, therefore, offensive line coach, Pat Hill, needs to get his group in better shape or this will be a long season.

Atlanta was also terrible on converting 3rd downs.

The red-zone and goal-line offense needs to improve immediately! Atlanta had reached goal-to-go downs three separate times and only scored one touchdown. In fact, the Falcons were in the same situation as the NFC Championship game last season- time running out, Falcons down by less than 7 points, ball inside the opponent's 10 yard-line. The Falcons are now 0/2 in this situation. Give Rob Ryan and the Saints credit for playing good defense with the game on the line, but the Falcons know they let that game slip right through their fingers.


The Saints' offense is stacked with weapons. Drew Brees is great quarterback and he's undoubtedly the leader of that team. The Brees can air it out and burn your defense with big plays; Atlanta did a nice job of limiting those. Asante Samuel was inactive with a thigh injury and the other defensive backs had to step up. Robert McClain had a nice pass break up in the first half. Rookie corner, Desmond Trufant, showed decent tackling skills, as well as his ability to cover. Although, I was most impressed by the Falcons other rookie corner, Robert Alford. On a very deep pass by Brees, Alford had a great deflection to force an incompletion. He also came away with his first career interception while defending a good wide receiver in Marques Colston.

Our defensive line had its moments during the game. They had a few sacks, but at times, they gave Drew Brees way too much time in the pocket.

Akeem Dent played very well and showed that he can be a dominant force at linebacker.

Special Teams:

Bosher punted the ball very well and the coverage team tackled very well. Darren Sproles is a speedy guy, and, if he has a lane, he can burn your coverage team for a touchdown.

Thanks for reading this blog. Follow me on Twitter @lovemyatl! The next blog will be published after the Falcons take on the St. Louis Rams at home this Sunday!

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