5 keys to win the battle for first-place in the NFC South

 

DeCoud puts a big hit on Drew Brees that led to a touchdown back in 2008. The Falcons will need more of this on Sunday.

DeCoud puts a big hit on Drew Brees that led to a touchdown back in 2008. The Falcons will need more of this on Sunday.

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons (5-3) face Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints (6-3) with first-place on the line at 1 p.m. Sunday at Georgia Dome.

Here are the five keys to the game:

1. Get New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees on the ground. The Falcons’ defensive line has played the run well, but has not consistently put pressure on quarterbacks. The Falcons’ run defense has given up 96.5 yards per game, which ranks seventh in the NFL. Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters, who have battled knee injuries, are getting healthier and playing stronger. The Falcons have just 15 sacks and are led by John Abraham and Peters, who have three apiece. The Saints have given up 19 sacks this season, which is tied for 13th in the NFL. The Saints’ line collapsed in their upset 31-21 loss to St. Louis on Oct. 30. They gave ups six sacks and had trouble running the ball. In the second meeting last year, the Falcons sent several free blitzers at Brees, but couldn’t get him sacked.

2. Run the ball with Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers: During their three-game winning streak, the Falcons have re-emphasized the run and have averaged 152.7 yards rushing. Turner, after rushing for more than 100 yards in two consecutive games, was on his way to another 100-yard game Sunday when the team pulled him with 2:50 left in the third quarter against the Colts. He had 71 yards on 19 carries. Turner is on pace to rush for 1,384 yards and 14 yards and is closing in on the franchise all-time rushing-touchdown record and the mark for most 100-yard games. After scoring a touchdown against the Colts, Turner pulled within two scores of Gerald Riggs’ franchise record for career rushing touchdowns. Riggs, who played for the Falcons from 1982-88, scored 48 touchdowns. Turner has 23 100-yard games, and Riggs has 24. Rodgers is coming on strong in his change-of-pace role.

3. Control Saints tight end Jimmy Graham: Falcons safety James Sanders could get the start Sunday if William Moore is not able to play. Sanders, who signed Aug. 30 after being released by the New England Patriots, started against Philadelphia on Sept. 18, but has played mostly on special teams. Moore suffered a quadriceps injury against the Colts. Sanders has played 91 games in the NFL and started 51, so he won’t be overwhelmed. However, he’ll the key defender against New Orleans second-year tight end Jimmy Graham.

4. Falcons must continue to score red zone: The Falcons will enter Sunday’s game with a clear advantage in red zone offense against the Saints’ red zone defense. The Falcons rank No. 2 in the NFL in red zone offense while the Saints rank last in red zone defense. The Falcons have scored 147 points on 28 trips inside the 20-yard line. They’ve scored 18 touchdowns and made seven field goals. The Falcons’ touchdown percentage (64.3) ranks second in the NFL. The Saints have yielded 15 touchdowns in 21 opponents’ possessions inside the 20-yard line (71.4 percent).

5. Contain Saints scatback Darren Sproles: After five seasons of mixed results, the Saints turned the page on the Reggie Bush-era and signed dynamic all-purpose back Darren Sproles in free agency. He’s a threat running, receiving and returning kickoffs and punts. Sproles, at 5-foot-6, is the only player in the NFL with touchdowns rushing, receiving and on a return this season. Bush became predictable because he did not run between the tackles with any toughness or enthusiasm. That’s certainly not the case with Sproles, who leads the Saints in rushing with 347 yards on 49 carries for a whopping 7.1 average per carry. Sproles, a seven-year veteran from Kansas State, also leads the Saints in receiving with 56 catches. The Falcons linebackers will be busy. 

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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170 comments Add your comment

Michael M.

November 11th, 2011
8:48 am

My goodness……….I actually got into first place
The tide is turning !

Michael M.

November 11th, 2011
8:50 am

Turner has a chance to break out and break Gerald Riggs Records….Wow ! In the back of his mind and deep down in his heart…………..Tell me he isnt fired up full speed ahead for Sundays Game !

ctfalconsfan

November 11th, 2011
8:58 am

It’s PAIN TIME for the aints come SUNDAY!!!

This is a must win as a loss means I would have to wear an aints emblem hanging from gold/black beads around my neck all day on Monday! This can not happen!
- A Falcon win puts the black and red beads and a HUGE Falcon emblem ( I bought on Bourban St a few years ago) on the aints fan!!!!
- I wanted her to wear a bag on her head all day as that’s how I like to picture aints fans but had to settle on Falcons necklace..

RISE UP ATL!!!

Uncle Rico

November 11th, 2011
9:08 am

ct I hear ya . I live in N.O now but from ATL . Falcons got to Rise up if not I will owe several cases of beer to locals here. Biggest key is stopping J. Graham he is Brees safety valve on 3rd down.

MUST WIN

November 11th, 2011
9:08 am

I was surprised not to hear that we have to get Julio involved early and play action pass to defeat the Saints this weekend because they are looking very “poorly” in the DB section. Also, i agree, getting to Brees early and often is a must in this game.

As for Turner and breaking records, I really don’t think this is important, but running the ball is…look for QR to get alot of touches in this game and alot of screen and short passes to control the clock.

Atlanta has a good chance of winning this game, but alot of chances to loose if they dont contain Sproles, which is a beast in the open field, (mind you they have Pierre running quite well also). This game will show who’s serious and who’s not about winning the NFC South but i predict and will say it now, ATL wins. 27-20, but a close one through and through….

watch, it will be a break out catch by Roddy down the sidelines in the end….BRING IT SAINTS!!! Good game to all!!!!

whodat70816

November 11th, 2011
9:19 am

1. Charles Brown is on IR….so don’t expect to get to Brees too often.

2. Turner Might get to break that record….but Blount thought he was going to have a great game against the Saints too. I totally expect the Falcons RBs to get their yards.

3. Good luck with that one…Graham has been doubled all season long. If the Falcons are successful containing Graham, then who’s going to be containing Meachum, Henderson, Moore, Colston and Sproles?

4. If they get there then they will likely score….Saints aren’t ranked last in red zone defense for no reason. Gotta get there though.

5. Again, good luck with that. Sproles is very hard to contain and the more attention paid to him…the more pounding PT and Ivory/Ingram will do.

This will be a great game. Of course I think the Saints will walk away with the W!

SirReal

November 11th, 2011
9:19 am

I think this is gonna be a great game. The Aints arent those of 09 and show a lot of chinks in their armor. Lets come out and smash them with the run all day and then hit the with downfield play actions to Roddy and Julio AND Douglas ( PLEASE get him more involved…if he walks this summer he’s gonna be a force wherever he lands…..the guy can be our Wes Welker!!!) against their hurt secondary. After the dust settles, we should be back where we belong….at the top. Last time I checked we still wore the belt around the South. :)

D man

November 11th, 2011
9:24 am

Five keys to win
1 get ahead early
2 blitz and put pressure on Brees so he will make bad throws
3 run baby run, turner that is
4 get off the field on 3rd and longs
5 just win the game so SeenitB4 and Hiram Saint will shut up temporarily (although they do crack me up with there funny comments)

whodat70816

November 11th, 2011
9:35 am

1 Key to Saints win:

1. Stop Turner.

Making the falcons 1 dimentional by putting the game on Matty Ice’s shoulders is key to a Saints Victory.

Milt Olsen

November 11th, 2011
9:38 am

This game will not even be close as the Saints are too inconsistent. The Falcons as a team are on their way up at the right time of the season, while the Saints are on their way down. Falcons 39 Saints 10.

sshack

November 11th, 2011
9:54 am

man I cant wait. what about kelly mier.

whodat70816

November 11th, 2011
9:57 am

Oh O.K. Milt Olsen…LMAO

I can’t even remember the last time the Saints scored 10 points or less….2009 or 2008 I believe.

And the Falcons will never score 39 points, because controlling the clock is they way they roll….its very hard to score a whole bunch of points when your drives are 6-8 minutes long. I guess if Brees is throwing several ints then it would be possible.

CGD..

November 11th, 2011
10:01 am

Five keys to win:

1.MATT RYAN
2.MATT RYAN
3.MATT RYAN
4.MATT RYAN
5.MATT RYAN

whodat70816

November 11th, 2011
10:09 am

CGD is saying the Falcons have Zero chance to win.

True Falcon Fan

November 11th, 2011
10:21 am

@CGD —- “WOW” Where did ALL that love come from?????????????

I hope you are “TRUE & RIGHT”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Go Falcons

Die Hard Falcon

November 11th, 2011
10:28 am

This is it, for all the chips and 1st place. It could really go either way, totally depends on which Falcons show up. I firmly believe that if the Falcons play up to our potential, it won’t matter whether they do, at 100%, I think we’re better than they are.
Get Julio a deep ball off play-action early and they’ll be on their heels all game, we will control the game and dictate to them. I think it’s much simpler than the 5 above keys, all the Falcons need to do is win the TO battle and limit the penalties. We will win if we control our controllables, I know it.
GO FALCONS!!!

Damage Inc.

November 11th, 2011
10:29 am

You spelled COD wrong.

Ken Strickland

November 11th, 2011
10:31 am

There are several keys to winning this gm for both teams. Offensively, he (S)aints have to make big plays and score often, because their REDZONE OFF is so weak. Defensively, they have to commit to stopping our revitalized rushing OFF, and their rushing DEF leaves a lot to be desired. They also have to figure out how to contain WRs RWhite and JJones, as well as TE TGonzalez, and maybe TE MPalmer, if we go to the 2 TE formation.

The Falcons have to stop their rushing OFF, and our rushing DEF has proven to be on of the NFLs best. Our pass DEF isn’t ranked very high overall, but the changes that have been made over the past 2-3gms have caused a vast improvement. The (S)aint WRs and QB DBrees are at their best when working against zones.

None of their WRs are particular fast, so we can definitely disrupt their timing, quick slant, and out patterns by pressing them in man coverages. Playing man coverages will also free up a LB or safety to add a 5th pass rusher. The Falcons have to limit Brees’ reads, make him rush his passes, and make DSproles his constant bailout receiver, then cover him quickly.

The Falcon OFF has the ability to be far more balanced than the (S)aints OFF, and our DEF definitely defends the run better. That gives the Falcons a decided advantage when it comes to having the ability to make the the opposition one dimensional.

kendall

November 11th, 2011
10:32 am

Wow! whodat70816, you are I believe the first NO fan to come on here and talk some since…….

Gamer

November 11th, 2011
10:32 am

THE FALCONS DEFENSE HITTING ON ALL CYLINDERS WILL BE KEY TO STOPPING BREES&COMPANY….

THE FRONT FOUR MUST HAVE A MONSTER GAME GETTING INTO THE BACKFIELD TO DISRUPT THE SAINTS POWERFUL OFFENSE….

AND THEN RYAN&COMPANY CONVERTING TURNOVERS INTO POINTS, PREFERRABLY TOUCHDOWNS!!!

THIS GAME WILL PROBABLY BE A NARROW VICTORY…..I TAKE THE HOT-FALCONS AT HOME DEFENDING THE DOME AND RISING ON TOP OF NFC SOUTH DIVISION.

FALCONS 26-20 OVER SAINTS

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SirReal

November 11th, 2011
11:06 am

Right on Mr. Strickland

Kurtis

November 11th, 2011
11:38 am

Whodat70816, welcome to the Falcons blog. You’ve shown a lot of class, unlike your cohorts who get on here and make everyone want to puke with their nonsense. There’s no reason everyone can’t get on here and be civil and pull for their respective teams. We’re all fans.

Martin

November 11th, 2011
11:53 am

Funny, how the failcants fans continue to call us the aint’s when we have a Lombardi and your team is still trying to get there. You guys are funny. Win a super bowl, then talk your usual trash, until then please shut up with how good your team is. Saints own the Georgia dome the last couple of years, just in case you guys forgot. Anyways, see you on Sunday.

Michael M.

November 11th, 2011
11:55 am

I hope The Birds can give them a big fat goose egg for their points {Saints 0} , at the end of the 4th Quarter but we know Drew will find a way to weasle into the endzone…………but it would be just so great to shut them out and shut them down and really make a statement !

Michael M.

November 11th, 2011
11:57 am

I think everybody was told to give you all that Trophy that year Martin.

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

November 11th, 2011
12:05 pm

If VanGorder’s defensive scheme for Sunday does not include the Falcons’ CBs bumping and slowing down the routes of the Saints’ receivers coming off the line of scrimmage…..it is going to be a very long day. BECAUSE….Brees will have all day to throw the ball downfield to open receivers.

The Saints are NOT as invincible as their fans who post on the Falcons’ blogs want you to believe….just asked the RAMS!!!!!

Sick & Tired Of Being Sick & Tired

November 11th, 2011
12:08 pm

Martin…..What’s up with the “WE” won the Lombardi trophy???? What position did you play that year???? Don’t you mean “the Saints won the Lombardi”????? DUDE….GET REAL!!!!!

Michael M.

November 11th, 2011
12:10 pm

Gosh..we still have two days to go to the Game starts………..I dunno how much longer I can keep this up
Lmao…………….since some of the Saints Fans called me an “old Geezer ”
Wheres the ugly Toad Trolls at today that was having the party on the picture logo blog last night ?
Lets go Boys…lets get it on..the old man aint done yet !

Saints R.E.A.M.

November 11th, 2011
12:11 pm

Strickland, does a nice analysis. Might want to add that the leagues leading passer D. Brees will not only shred a zone but man2man as well. Teams have tried to shut the Saints passing attack down in every conceivable way…the only thing that really works is sacking him. If the Saints can mix it up and run the ball like they did against Tampa…..Katy bar the door and hide the women and children cause….Who DAT nation will run all over you!!!!

Lil 7thWard

November 11th, 2011
12:12 pm

Geaux Saints!!

Michael M.

November 11th, 2011
12:20 pm

Even when a defense does start to grab ahold of weaslehead { Breeze } , he always trying to toss the ball off to someone, maybe he will toss it right into the hands of Big Abe and he take off with it the other way for a score .

P B Orr

November 11th, 2011
12:26 pm

Can’t agree D-led – the key is ball control through short passes (they will stack the run), and the kicking game. It will come down to good punting, kickoffs, and field goals. The rest will be attrition from two tense and physical teams.

Michael M.

November 11th, 2011
12:31 pm

You know thinking about it both Teams fairly well know what to expect out of each other…..but two differences this year are Jones and Rodgers, the Saints haven’t played against those two yet so they may ” stir up the Gumbo ” in the Saints Pot this go around !

Saints R.E.A.M.

November 11th, 2011
12:37 pm

Michael M……C’mon Jones I understand a little….but Jizz Rodgers hasn’t done anything. Not because Jizz isn’t anygood but your Offensive Coordinator hasn’t figured out how to use him.

On the other hand, you’ll get a good look at Sproles and a look at a more experienced Graham…how’s that for stirring up some Gumbo??

Michael M.

November 11th, 2011
12:43 pm

maybe come Sunday the Saints will think he hasnt done anything either and take him lightly….and the little guy will get a handoff and bust through a hole and take it to the house…………..Grins !

Michael M.

November 11th, 2011
12:51 pm

I think the Saints better not take the Falcons lightly period for they may be lookin up at the scoreboard with it 14-7 Atlanta with 4:59 left in the 2nd Quarter and Atlanta with the ball again and maybe Atlanta receiving the ball first in the 2nd half….sounds like a familiar game to me with the Falcons .

Michael M.

November 11th, 2011
12:59 pm

Saints should have kept Reggie Bush man and the tight end you let go..I cant think of his name…..but anyways your Team was better……………………….alright off this thing . Things to do !

Michael Smith

November 11th, 2011
1:22 pm

Yo bro ! was up ? looks like you already had a long day.

CGD..

November 11th, 2011
1:29 pm

Question? Can Matt Ryan play like a ProBowler against another playoff team or will he fold again?

CGD..

November 11th, 2011
1:31 pm

If Brees has time, he will show Melty how to throw the rock! lol

Michael Smith

November 11th, 2011
1:31 pm

Answer : Never ever. Coz its Matt ”choky” Ryan.

Michael Smith

November 11th, 2011
1:33 pm

5 keys to stop falcons:
1. stop turner.
2. see 1
3. see 2
4. see 3
5. see 5

CGD..

November 11th, 2011
1:35 pm

If Melt throws another pick six this week he will lose…

DJ Sniper

November 11th, 2011
1:37 pm

Enter your comments here

DJ Sniper

November 11th, 2011
1:39 pm

Anybody got any word on Julio Jones? I just read that he was added to yesterday’s injury report and he practiced on a limited basis. I haven’t heard any other news about his hamstring acting up. It sure didn’t seem to bother him last Sunday.

Michael Smith

November 11th, 2011
1:39 pm

Matty always melts in crucial games. So its no big deal.

falconsrus

November 11th, 2011
1:46 pm

The only W the saints (I like to say “Scents” cause they smell funny),will walk away with is a Who Dat Done beat them Scents DE BIRDS DATS WHO

there's really only 1 key

November 11th, 2011
1:47 pm

Score more than New Orleans…

Steve-O

November 11th, 2011
1:55 pm

Here’s a factioud for everyone to consider: The Saints have the WORST red-zone defense in the NFL this year. They have allowed 15 TD’s and 6 FG’s on 21 red-zone possessions, or 71% TD’s and 100% scores. They also have lost all 3 road games this year. Looks like the Saints bravado may be a little overblown.