FLOWERY BRANCH – New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is still pretty dangerous, but his play has dipped some this season.
His passer rating of 93.5 is well below the 109.5 he had last season while guiding the Saints to the Super Bowl.
His touchdown percentage of 5.4 is below the 6.6 mark he had last season.
Brees has also thrown a career-high 19 interceptions and has been sacked 21 times. He was sacked just 20 times last season.
While there are signs that Brees is not invincible this season, the Falcons are still high on him and consider the reigning Super Bowl MVP in the top echelon of quarterbacks.
“His completion percentage and his ability to distribute the ball has just been unbelievable,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “He’s a great fit for head coach Sean Payton’s offensive scheme and what they want to do. He’s almost completing 70 percent of his passes and last year I believe he was over 70 percent if I’m not mistaken.”
(Coach Smith is always on top of his stats. Brees is completing 68.5 percent of his passes after completing 70.6 last season.)
In basketball, when playing a team with a high scorer sometimes you try to take away the high scorer. But if he’s too good, then you have to take away the lesser players and see if the high scorer can beat you by himself.
Against the Saints, the Falcons have to decide if they want to take away Brees, who controls everything or try to eliminated some of his weapons. He has so many weapons that it’s nearly impossible to take all of them away.
Here’s how the Falcons can take away some of Brees’ vast weaponry.
ATTACK BREES: The defensive line must get to Brees and take him out of his game. They call it moving him off his spot.
The Falcons got two sacks and four quarterback back hits in the previous matchup. The defensive line has eight sacks over the last three games.
They need to get more than two sacks and many more than four hits on Brees to knock him off his game.
“We’ve been effective recently in our pass rush and better in pressure,” defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. “Our speed and pressure has been better the last couple of games. It’s still an area where we are constantly talking about and working on and emphasizing. But I thought last week out in Seattle it was outstanding especially in the third quarter when we
came out and affected the quarterback and had three straight takeaways. All of that was a big result of pressure to the quarterback.”
STOP BUSH & THE RUN GAME: Rookie LB Sean Weatherspoon needs to shut down Reggie Bush on the screens and swing passes out of the backfield. He’ll have to be a sure tackler and not go for Bush’s smooth fakes and stutter steps.
The Falcons held the Saints to 43 yards rushing in the last matchup.
“If you’ve played them as much as we have, we’ve had a number of games where they’ve been very effective running the football against us,” VanGorder said. “We always start our defense there. Let’s concern ourselves with stopping the run and we certainly have had a number of games where we haven’t played very well against the run with New Orleans. That’s where we start our day.”
TAKE AWAY SHOCKEY: Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey caught eight passes for 78 yards and one touchdown in the last meeting.
Second-year safety William Moore was making his second start against the Saints on Sept. 27.
Let’s just be kind and write that he was taught a few things about covering tight ends in the league in that game.
“We play them a little different each time we line up with them,” VanGorder said. “Every game has been a learning experience with them. They are a handful. . . they are always a great, great challenge for everybody in the NFL.”
Moore has been coming along nicely.
“I like where he is in terms of his study habits right now and his attention to detail,” VanGorder said. “I’ll be quite frank with you, he’s done a better job than even I had anticipated early on as he entered our lineup and that’s a credit to him. . . he’s going to make mistakes, but we look forward to him really playing through some of those mistakes.”
Also, safety Erik Coleman, who lost his job to Moore, has been a professional about the move after being the team’s second-leading tackler over the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
“Erik is tremendous,” VanGorder said. “He’s very knowledgeable. He’s a good solid man that has been extremely helpful to William through this process.”
(Feel free to come up with your own ways to slow down Drew Brees and the Saints’ sixth ranked offense. Nickel back Brian Williams should do a better job on Lance Moore. He didn’t play in the first game, either.)
–D. Orlando Ledbetter