FLOWERY BRANCH — There is an area of the Falcons’ locker room at their training facility known as “D block.” It’s comprised of mostly linebackers and defensive end Kroy Biermann, because, in the words of linebacker Curtis Lofton, “Kroy’s nasty so we let him in.”
“You can’t enter D block without permission,” Lofton said.
“We’re the bad side over here,” said linebacker Mike Peterson, the unofficial mayor of D block.
Motioning to the opposite corner of the locker room, where quarterback Matt Ryan and the receivers dress, Peterson added: “That’s Beverly Hills over there.”
I figured this would be a good week to visit D block. The Falcons’ defense goes against New Orleans Sunday, and Atlanta’s upset chances are closely tied to the more physical, less graceful aspects of football. Finesse probably won’t win it.
Last year, the Saints defeated the Falcons by scores of 35-27 and 26-23. Atlanta had little trouble moving the ball against New Orleans, but struggled to contain quarterback Drew Brees, who completed 56 of 73 passes for 604 yards and five touchdowns with one interception in the two games.
The Falcons’ defense has had an impressive start to the season. Pittsburgh managed only three field goals in the opener until a 50-yard touchdown run by Rashard Mendenhall in overtime. Arizona also managed just one touchdown, also on a big play: an 80-yard run by Tim Hightower in the Falcons’ 41-7 win.
But the Saints, who led the NFL in offense last season on the way to the Super Bowl, represent a significant step up. It may be only one game in a season of 16 but how the year unfolds will be determined in part by how the Falcons’ defense holds up against explosive offenses.
“You can’t crown us yet, but we’re climbing that ladder,” Peterson said.
Lofton referred to Brees as “like a surgeon” on the field. “This will test us in all facets,” he said. “We have to bring that [hard] hat.”
The question of the day: Do you believe the Falcons’ defense is up for the task?
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