Here is a look at how the Falcons’ offensive line matches up against the Saints’ defensive line:
Matchup Advantage: Falcons
What happened last time: The Saints’ defensive line played a big part in holding the Falcons to 5-of-13 on third downs (31 percent) and came up with a big play on a fourth-and-inches situation in overtime. Rogers had good penetration and Smith slipped through a wide split by tight end Reggie Kelly. The Falcons generated a season-high 481 total yards, but stalled in the red zone and had to settle for three field goals.
Falcons’ starters: Left tackle Will Svitek, left guard Justin Blalock, center Todd McClure, right guard Joe Hawley and right tackle Tyson Clabo.
Falcons’ key reserves: Tackle Kirk Chambers, guard Garrett Reynolds and center Brett Romberg.
Saints’ starters: Left end Cameron Jordan, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis and right end Will Smith.
Saints’ key reserves: Ends Junior Galette, Turk McBride and Jeff Charleston and tackles Shaun Rogers and Tom Johnson.
Matchups to watch: Hawley vs. Ellis and Svitek vs. Smith.
The current starting unit – the Falcons have used four different combinations this season — should be in better sync for this matchup with the Saints.
In the first meeting, Svitek was making his third start of the year and Hawley, who has given up 4 1/2 sacks, was making his second pro start at right guard.
After a bumpy start to the season, the unit has pulled together in pass protection. They have given up 26 sacks, which is the ninth-lowest total in the league. However, they have given up 74 quarterback hits, which ranks sixth-highest in the league.
The Saints have allowed 109.9 yards rushing per game, which ranks 13th in the league. They have generated 31 sacks, but safety Roman Harper is the team leader with 7 1/2. Smith is tops along the defensive line with 6 1/2. Galette has 4 1/2 sacks.
Jordan, a rookie who was the 24th pick overall in the first round from Cal-Berkeley, has started all 14 games, 12 at left end. He has 53 tackles, four passes defensed, one fumble recovery, but no sacks.
“He did some really good things against me last time, so I’m going to have to counter that,” Clabo said. “He’s a first-round pick, a big-time player. He will be a good challenge for me. We’ll see what happens.”
Despite not having a sack, the Falcons are impressed with Jordan.
“I think that he’s off to a really good start in his career,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “I think he’s going to be a guy that we’re going to have to contend with for a long time.”
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog