Who Dat? Secondary playing well for Saints

Last season the Saints went for the jugular on the first play of the game, throwing deep to the speedy Devery Henderson. But Falcons safety Erik Coleman was over the top for the interception. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC)

Last season the Saints went for the jugular on the first play of the game, throwing deep to the speedy Devery Henderson. But Falcons safety Erik Coleman was over the top for the interception. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC)

THE BRANCH – The Falcons and Saints were in the same predicament this offseason.

They were making changes in the secondary and were looking for cornerbacks and safeties.

The Saints elected to sign ball-hawking safety Darren Sharper and cornerback Jabari Greer during free agency.

Both moves have paid off for the Saints. Sharper has six interceptions and returned three for touchdowns. Greer, the former University of Tennessee standout, is off to a good start.

With the secondary holding up, New Orleans’ new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has implemented his more

The Thomas Wade Landry statue outside to Cowboys Stadium.

The Thomas Wade Landry statue outside to Cowboys Stadium.

aggressive approach.

Now, the Saints appear to have a defense to match their high-scoring offense and are the only undefeated team in the NFC at 6-0.

Instead of going the free agency route, the Falcons addressed their secondary needs through the draft.

Second round pick William Moore, who was expected to contend for the starting strong safety spot, was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. Cornerback Christopher Owens, a third rounder, is playing on special teams. Cornerback William Middleton, a fifth rounder, was released, but has caught on with Jacksonville.

The Falcons elected to pass on talented cornerback Vontae Davis in the first round. He went to Miami on the very next pick. Davis’ off-the-field issues at Illinois certainly were a red flag for the Falcons.

The Falcons added Brian Williams after he was cut by Jacksonville, but he’s out for the season with a knee injury.

So now, the Falcons head into the first game against pass-happy New Orleans, and the secondary is still unsettled.

Was on the AirTran Falcons plane to Dallas.

Was on the AirTran Falcons plane to Dallas.

There doesn’t appear to be any options other than to keep “coaching up” Chris Houston and Brent Grimes.

It would be unfair to throw Owens out there against Brees for his first NFL start.

“I feel comfortable on both sides, so it really doesn’t matter,” Owens said. “I just have to focus more on the field. I figure if you eliminate the mental mistakes, you have a better chance of making plays on the field.”

Former first round pick Tye Hill, acquired from the St. Louis Rams for a 7th round pick, appears to be on deck if the cornerbacks continue to struggle.

HEBERT ACTS A FOOL IN THE PRESS BOX: Hey, Bobby Hebert, no cheering in the press box! This was after the Saints win over the New York Jets.

THE BREW  CREW: Before Barry Alvarez turned the University of Wisconsin into a respectable Big Ten program in the 1990s, it was rare to find a NFL player from the state.

With the signing of Aaron Stecker, the Falcons now have three players from Wisconsin. Stecker, the pride of Ashwaubenon High, went on to star at the University of Wisconsin and transferred to Western Illinois after Ron Dayne started to gobble up all of the carries on his way to the Heisman Trophy. Ashwaubenon is a small city right next to Green Bay.

Falcons long-snapper Michael Schneck is from the Milwaukee suburbs and played at Wisconsin. Offensive lineman Jose Valdez is from St. Francis, Wisconsin (a Milwaukee suburb). He’s on the practice squad and played at Arkansas.

OPENING DRIVE CHART: Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey’s opening game scripts were red-hot last season when the Falcons were 8-0 when they scored on the opening drive of the game.

This season, they have scored two times on the opening drive and are 0-2 in those games.


Detroit – TD – Win

Tampa Bay – Interception — Loss

Kansas City – Punt – Win

Carolina – Punt – Loss

Green Bay – TD – Win

Chicago – FG – Win

Philadelphia – Punt – Loss

Oakland – TD – Win

New Orleans – Punt – Win

Denver – Punt –Loss

Carolina – FG – Win

San Diego – FG – Win

New Orleans – Interception – Loss

Tampa Bay – Punt – Win

Minnesota – TD – Win

St. Louis – FG – Win


Miami – Missed FG – Win

Carolina – Punt – Win

New England – FG – Loss

San Francisco – Punt – Win

Chicago – Punt – Win

Dallas – TD – Loss

Coach Mike Smith is preaching “Team Defense.” But in the scheme of that “Team Defense” everbody has an assignment. He wants everyone to get better at their assignments, but don’t the cornerbacks have the most room for improvement in the “Team Defense” scheme? The unit is likely set to give up it’s third straight 300-yard passing game. Will the Saints even bother to show of their improve rushing attack with Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell? Which one of the receivers — Marques Colston, Henderson, Reggie Bush, or Jeremy Shockey — can the Falcons take away from Brees?

115 comments Add your comment


October 28th, 2009
8:42 am

Hey DOL,

The Falcons went 11-5 last year, not 13-3. In your graphic, you have them winning Game 4 vs. Carolina and the game vs. Denver. They lost both.


October 28th, 2009
8:49 am

Should be an exciting opening for this game; the falcons should be able to keep it competitive until at least half way through the first quarter. Saints win in a laugher, Saints 48 – falcons 10.


October 28th, 2009
8:55 am

Divination, I assume you are a Saints fan, so welcome. I do have to say as a Falcons fan, I truly believe you are wrong. Smitty kicks some tail, Turner gets his groove back and my beloved Falcons win 31-28.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

October 28th, 2009
9:02 am

LJ: Thanks. Updated.


October 28th, 2009
9:10 am

Seems like we have passed on Darren Sharper twice. Once when he went to Minnesota in 2005 and now in 2009. Both times, we were in need of a safety big-time. I guess we don’t like ball-hawking safeties that can take it too the house. But I digress. On the CB situation, we should have replaced Brent Grimes about 4 games ago with Owens. I agree that Monday night is not the time to start him. But he and Tye Hill should get plenty of action. This team needs to spend some major $$$ and address the CB position in free agency next year. You cannot go cheap on a good CB, sorry.

An Observation

October 28th, 2009
9:14 am

DOL – great analysis of what has happened this year with the Falcons’ secondary. However, with that said, it would be crazy for the Saints to not throw the ball down field all night long Monday night.

Houston and Grimes have shown they are not capable of consistently shutting down good NFL WRs. Hopefully this will be first thing that TD addresses during the off season. Those two have been exposed as weaknesses on the defense this year especially after Williams went down for the season and I don’t believe they can be coached up any more than they already have at this point.


October 28th, 2009
9:23 am

FalconUGAfan: I’m a Saints fan, correct. Not disrespecting the falcons, just think that that falcons aren’t where they were last year, lots of injuries and plenty of new personnel at root of their problems. Seems like Saints can score at the drop of a hat and in spurts, with the help of their defense, seems like they can score three touchdowns inside of three minutes and with this always being a high emotion, big rivalry type of game, at home, ….. Of course, Reggie Bush is going to be on the cover of SI, we might be $crewed.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

October 28th, 2009
9:26 am

An Observation: Thanks for your kind words. Not much choice, but to keep coaching ‘em up.


October 28th, 2009
9:41 am

I have to think that if Tye Hill isn’t on the field it has to be because he is not ready in the coaches eyes. I trust the coaches and if they don’t think he wouldn’t be an uprade over our current corners, I sure don’t want to see him on the field.

North FLA Falcon

October 28th, 2009
9:43 am

Hey DOL: wasn’t Miami in 2009 a “win”?


October 28th, 2009
9:55 am

Yeah, I believe the Birds only have 2 losses and we beat Miami. However, on Monday night…

D. Orlando Ledbetter

October 28th, 2009
10:13 am

North FLA Falcon: Yes, Miami was win. Updated.

real fan

October 28th, 2009
10:23 am

Tough match-up this Monday. I have to say I think the Saints are a year ahead of us in terms of re-building . I still hope we win . But my hats off to the Saints ,this is a very good football team .


October 28th, 2009
10:31 am

Coach Mike Smith is talking about changes after losing to the Dallas Cowboys. But I think he could do better at making changes as the game progresses. For Instance- If Turner is in the game an he seems to sputter, and Jason Snelling comes in an get’s more yardage. Then use the hot hand, then go back to Turner later in the game. I know nobody is high on Chris Houston and Brent Grimes, but you had to know what you had after the preseason. These guys are professional athletes, our coaching staff has to do a better job at coaching these guys up. Aaron Stecker has played in the league for nine years, Is this guy capable of getting to the outside like Jerious Norwood or a Ricky Williams. We need a speed back not someone with the same style as Snelling and Turner. Every team in the league has Injuries, but you have to find a way to win. GO FALCONS…….


October 28th, 2009
10:37 am

You are sooooo right D. I think the Falcons should be more aggressive in free agency and trades. You don’t get someone like Tony Gonzales and do expect to compete now.

Do you have any idea why the Falcons have faith in Brent Grimes? He seems like a great kid and hard worker, but at 5′9″ how much can he contribute. If he lost the starting position last year, why give it to him again this year?


October 28th, 2009
11:32 am

Remember..This team has not lost back to back games, this year or last. It sounds like we have already lost this game. The Falcons I know will make the trip to New Orleans, they will be better prepared, they will play hard, and they will bloody some noses. The Saints could very well be the best team in the NFL this year, but the game will be decided after 60 min of hard fought football.


October 28th, 2009
11:44 am

The bottom line is the Falcons are not ready to face a team that’s averaging 40 points a game….The Falcons have only had one win where they scored more than 40 points..the secondary is definitely the weak link on this team and lately no pass rush either…Drew Brees is gonna have a field day against this defense


October 28th, 2009
12:32 pm

The Falcons were a special teams tackle and a just barely missed sack by John Abraham from making the Dallas game much closer.
And Fred Kalil still bites.


October 28th, 2009
12:38 pm

do I need to peep talk my falcons and put the saints into deep thought of thier first loss? cause look at the 2007 SB. the Giants were the worst team to ever enter the bowl and they played a 18-0 N.E. (and also cheating) and they whopped that butt.
we have a great O. look at the niners game (they were ranked good with D and we put them out). now we are playing a team whose D is like ours? we should put up as many points as they have.


October 28th, 2009
12:40 pm

with the deffence looking like they will be doing some changes. it can work out for the better or worse. but sorry to say but the falcons can’t go much worse. so let Hill go out, just see what he can do.


October 28th, 2009
1:24 pm

The bottom line is the Falcons are not ready to face a team that’s averaging 40 points a game


Oh no you didn’t? Is anyone (aside from the way the New England Patriots who are RED HOT right now) ready to take on an UNDEFEATED team putting up 40 points?

Of course THEY ARE NOT READY, just damn people.

Our defense is patchwork, and we’ve done a great job to be where we are record wise considering the issues with the lack of talent in the secondary and D-Line.

If the Falcons can make the Saints game a competitive one, it’ll be a bonus.

Saints are primed for a NFC championship run…Falcons are 1-2 years away (esp on Defense).


October 28th, 2009
1:41 pm

After both losses — to NE and DAL — members of the defense came out and said (or at least suggested) that they had been caught off guard. Remember, after the NE loss, one player said they had been gearing up for the pass, and as a result, they made Fred Taylor look like Jim Brown.

After the Dallas game, a player said that they had geared up to stop Dallas’ vaunted rushing attack. As a result, Romo had a monster game.

What do you make of a) these seemingly misfired strategies and b) the fact that the players are almost admitting that they weren’t adequately prepared?

Or am I just reading too much into it?

Big Mac

October 28th, 2009
1:57 pm

The Falcons Are 4-0 Against The Below Average Teams Of The NFL Whose Combined Record Is
10 Wins Against 14 Loses..That’s Right, The 4 Wins They Have Are Against Teams That Don’t Measure Up To AVERAGE!! The 2 Loses Are Against Teams Who Are ABOVE Average With A Combined Score Of 9-5..Guess What All This Means Against New Orleans On Monday Night Football?? TOTAL EMBARRASSMENT!! They Will LOSE By 5 Touchdowns!! This Team Is A YOUNG Group Of Guys In The Learning Process And IF They Can Stick Together Over The Next 2 Years, They MIGHT Have A Chance To Compete
At The Higher Level!

[...] Link: Who Dat? Secondary playing well for Saints | Atlanta Falcons with … [...]

bob saints fan

October 28th, 2009
2:12 pm

saint winning 100-0 saints baby


October 28th, 2009
2:12 pm

Falcons defense is about 2 years away from catching up with the offense.

bob saints fan

October 28th, 2009
2:14 pm

more like never their defense will catch up


October 28th, 2009
2:15 pm

Just how much more “stuggling” do Grimes and Houston have to do before they try Tye Hill? How bad must Hill look in practice that they’re not even willing to give him a try or start or play AT ALL? This team isn’t going anywhere fast if they keep these corners. I’ll say it AGAIN–we should’ve paid Foxworth what he wanted, it would’ve been worth it. I don’t have any confidence in us drafting any more corners when the last 2 we’ve selected aren’t doing anything for this team! I pray Abe shows up in this game, he is the disappearing man, you’ve got to overcome those double teams and stop getting knocked on your butt. Use the no huddle but include Finn for god’s sakes, use his height & his flypaper hands. Go Birds!

Embarrassment of The Nfl

October 28th, 2009
2:22 pm

I remember all of you guys making Dimitroff the President of Brilliance.

He got lucky last season, not because he was a smart guy, but because the Falcons were so pathetic, he could only look smart because anything was an upgrade. Let’s take a closer look at this brilliance:






Big Grady


Jerry……………..Damaged Goods

Moore…………….Damaged Goods


Gonzalez (age 34 and will retire in 2 seasons)

Gave up a NUMBER 2 pick

The defense is horrible

The quarterback can’t win against ELITE teams

The quarterback can’t stretch the field

The coaching has BURNED OUT Turner

At least the Reeves & Mora eras brought home playoff wins.


October 28th, 2009
2:40 pm

Embarrassment of The Nfl,
As always there is somebody reaching to try to make their statement true:
Brooking: Overrated and wanted to be paid like a Pro Bowler even though he is past his prime

Milloy: Last I checked the FS and SS haven’t done too poorly

Foxworth: $16 million guranteed and he hasn’t been what the Ravens hoped him to be.

Boley: What has he done since being on the Giants

Big Grady: Big but not as effective as he used to be. We are actually getting more penetration up the middle with JA98.


Jerry……………..Damaged Goods: Can’t judge on just this year lets wait

Moore…………….Damaged Goods:Can’t judge on just this year lets wait


Gonzalez (age 34 and will retire in 2 seasons): More catches this year than our whole TE group last year. He has played very well.

Gave up a NUMBER 2 pick: If we didn’t get him we would’ve gotten a TE next year probably so it doesn’t matter

The defense is horrible: Top 10 in scoring defense and that’s the on;y stat that matters

The quarterback can’t win against ELITE teams: That is a bunch of BS. Cowboys aren’t elite and they had 2 weeks to prepare for us.

The quarterback can’t stretch the field:Only Rookie QB to throw for 3,0000 yards other than Peyton Manning

The coaching has BURNED OUT Turner: Turner has burned out Turner

At least the Reeves & Mora eras brought home playoff wins: Mora made it to the playoffs once and he couldn’t keep up the success and Dan got us there only twice. This team seems poised to be more competitive on a consistent bases.


October 28th, 2009
3:03 pm

Is Norwood still on the mend? We are missing him big time.

Bill Heller

October 28th, 2009
4:05 pm

I’ve been a Falcons fan for 33 years and I’ve never seen the team ranked in the top 5 for passing defense. So there…

Bill Heller

October 28th, 2009
4:11 pm

Actually the Falcons had a great pass defense in 1977 when they allowed 129 points in a 14 game season. But that’s it. So double there…

Eddie Williams

October 28th, 2009
4:53 pm

Why has everyone jumped off of the Turner band wagon, of course his yardage is down because his carries are down he carried the ball more than any other running back in the league last year. Now the Falcons are a pass first offense, he can not put up the same numbers if he doesnt touch the ball. The Falcons pass on 1st down, run on 2nd dwn, and pass on first down. They take out Turner when they pass the ball even though he’s an excellent pass blocker and only put him in during running plays. Its not too hard to predict when they are gonna run the ball. Any running back would have the same production as Turner in this offense. Snelling and Norwood get great yeardage only because the Defense thinks that we are passing because Turner isn’t in the game.


October 28th, 2009
7:13 pm

It’s a shame that the Falcon’s are gonna get embarrassed on national television like this!!
Saints 40-24, over those dirty birds! U saw what the Cowboys did to yall. Now, how about the #1
scoring offense in the league! GAME OVA ATL!!!!!! Yall defense is suspect at best, ATL doesn’t stand a chance- WHO DAT BABY!!!!

Steve T

October 28th, 2009
9:13 pm

Send Turner to the colts and watch us win another Super Bowl. Teams are loading up the box to stop the run because your QB can’t throw pass 30 yards. Give Redmon a chance because he can throw the ball down the field.


October 28th, 2009
10:27 pm

For the Falcons to upset the Saints Monday Night, The Falcons Front Four might as well pin their ears back 70% of the downs to play the Saints passing offense to knock Brees around and off his passing lanes.

Rely on their linebackers to halt the run, even if it means given up 5 to 6 yards runs sometimes. It will be better than being scorched all night for TD’S from Brees.

Chances for Falcons’ win are slim at Saints, but if the Falcons have some surprise looks with the running game using Turner and Snelling. Mixing up run plays with screen plays, then I think the Falcons can pull out a streaking win.

Otherwise if no Falcons’ running game, then the Saints win by BIG NUMBERS!

Floor D. Lee

October 28th, 2009
11:20 pm

This is by far the most respectful and intelligent blog I’ve been on. That being said, the SAINTS will win…and Reggie should hush. Good night.


October 29th, 2009
12:28 am

Jonathan said:

now we are playing a team whose D is like ours? we should put up as many points as they have.
ummm. have you even watched a saints game? our D is far superior to yours… a lot of those pts scored against the saints D were due to special teams mistakes giving opponents short fields… a lot of the yardage given up was during “junk” time when the lead was out of hand.

the Saints D is tops in turnover ratio and overall top 10 and very deep. the Falcons are not deep at all. comparing the 2 D’s is insulting.


October 29th, 2009
12:36 am

My only hope is we are putting out enough “disinformation” that our players cannot cover anything taller than 5;6′ when they really can. Seems to be we should have some quick outs as well as no huddles than can always be the fall back pattern.

But, hey,I may not be D mastermind. (What say you, Glenn Dorsey!) I just know how much I flinched when both my daughters covered their eyes during Pats and Cowpaddies nop up plays.

Yes, I’d love to go to the Super Bowl, but can we please just have the rest of the season without at least one play each quarter making me want to go ostrich? Here’s a further hope that Smitty is smart enough and canny enough to play a trap game on NOLA.


October 29th, 2009
2:59 am

It seems the thing todo is just keep heaping criticism on the secondary (sure they deserve some), but we would not have beaten the Panthers without a timely interception by Chris Houston. I really like Grimes. I notice him running guys out of bounds before they can catch often. That said, sure they get burned sometimes. As for Tye Hill and Chris Owens, if they are good enough to be back-ups, they must have some degree of talent or else they wouldn’t be on the roster. Truth to tell, if the secondary was the only group responsible for last Sunday’s loss, that would be one thing. If that were true, we would have won the game. We lost the game because every position played poorly on all 3 phases. Can’t win with solid WRs gingerly reaching for a ball that gets ripped away before or after you catch it. Turner never got started (we all know that). Our offensive line looked like Swiss cheese for the first time this year. Matt Ryan didn’t handle pressure well (he was used to not having any pressure), Our D-Line got outmaneuvered by Romo often, the secondary made too many tackles (meaning LBs missed people too), special teams defense collapsed with a run by a guy that was benched the game before. I loved the win against Chicago, but it was the hardest hitting game I’ve seen. I thought, either the team will be tired or toughened up for the next game. They were obviously tired. The other big problem was the game plan. Coach Smith explained that the game plan resolved around stopping the Dallas run game, which they did. Romo had struggled for 3 straight games, so no one expected Romo to have a career passing game. When he did, our game plan was no longer relevant.
It is unfortunate that the Saints look to be that NFL team that can go undefeated, and they happen to be in our division. It will take a miracle to win Monday night. The good news is this bad stretch can be pushed aside quickly when the Redskins come into town (just what the doctor ordered). We will be competing most of the year with the Packers and one of the 3 best NFC East teams for a Wildcard birth. I like our chances. But 9 or 10 wins will not win this division with the Saints in it.


October 29th, 2009
9:53 am

DOL. Not making any excuses for the losses, but I wonder if you have noticed how often John Abraham is being held by the offensive linemen and they do not call it. I have watched evry game this year and focused on Abraham and it seems to me (just my opinion) that he is being held alot. If that is the case that would explain why he has not been able to get as many sacks as last year. Also, last year our team was injury free all year, this year we have had a high anount of injuries. In the NFL the team that stays healthy throughgout the year usually makes the playoffs if they have decent players. What is your opinion?


October 29th, 2009
10:02 am

I think the falcons loose this game in N.O but win in the ATL.The birds are hard to beat at the dome.Lets see if anyone agree with me on this thought.In the future,put grimes at free saftey and let him learn the position.When you watch grimes play,he’s around the ball everytime its thrown his way but is too short to make plays on bigger recievers.Place him at free saftey and he will see the field more making plays with his ball hawking energy.It kind of put you in mind of bob sanders of indy 5″8.Not saying he is a sanders but i personally think he would dwell better at that position by him being a fighsty energetic player.

Standing up every 2nd and 3rd down on defense in sec 340

October 29th, 2009
10:27 am

The Saints are the best team in football. However, there is a reason they play the games. I hope the Saints are over confident and think “Dat” there shiat don’t stink. We then smash them in the face with a resurrected Turner.
Did I really read someone suggest start Redman? Matt Ryan is legit. The people who want to bash him need to realize he is the future of the team and if you are a real Falcon fan, then you need to back your boy up.
Hey Mr Dimitroff please get a cornerback over 6′0 please sometime in the future.
Matt Ryan is the Truth
In Dimitroff and Smith We Trust
A biased season ticket holder
Go Falcons
42-35 Falcons get the offense going


October 29th, 2009
11:02 am

Interesting comments. As a Saints Fan, i can say this without problem, Monday Night Falcons are in trouble. That being said, I dont underestimate the Fight that will take place. Falcon – Saints games are ALLWAYS close. Seems that we usually split the season. Falcons will probably make playoffs (Beating out Cowgirls) as a wildcard. The road to the Superbowl will more than likely have to go through New Orleans. I REALLY want to see Falcons KILL Cowgirls in wildcard round.

Humble Fan

October 29th, 2009
11:06 am

The best defence is a controlled offence with a pounding running game to keep NO offence off of the field.Go get’um Turner the burner.

Humble Fan

October 29th, 2009
11:17 am

Andrew you sure do sound confident.I would not get to fiesty about the saints being 6-0 after the falcons get through with them. it just mite be the saints playing the cowgirls in the wild card game.you never know it a long 10 games left anything can and will happen.


October 29th, 2009
11:24 am

My intenet was not arrogance. It was simply to give Falcons some credit. I think the Falcons are alot better team than anyone is giving them credit for( did i just say that? lol) I am a season ticket holder and KNOW what the dome will be like monday. Remember the game when the dome reopened? Well multiply that by about 2 or 3. The city has Saints fever like i have NEVER seen it before. As it stands the dome will be a very very difficult environment for any opposing team.


October 29th, 2009
1:06 pm

I swear to Moses some of you people are watching a different Grimes than I am. *ON A FOOTBALL FIELD* he is as useless as teats on a boar hog and needs to go away. And he needs to take Houson with him.


October 29th, 2009
1:33 pm

The saints are good, Snelling needs to be utilzed with Burner and hopefully we can put up a good enough run game to keep the ball out of Breezys hands and if Abe is getting doubled, somebody should be getting to the quarterback for what its worth JA98 is doing a better job in the inside. If we can to the quarterback that should help out the “little ones” in the secondary. If the Saints are playing in their territory then Houston needs to get a pass interference everytime he is covering somebody because he is definetly a “poster child” They need to beat a legit team, I thought the Bears were legit but after the beating they took last week…………………. The birds can win, will they win? probably &*%