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Gus Kattengell’s Saints Report — Falcons Game

What a difference a year makes. 2012 was the season where the Falcons stayed healthy and the ball bounced the Red and Black way, while for the Black and Gold it was a season to forget. Atlanta finished with a 13-3 season that led to them hosting the NFC Championship game and coming within 10 yards of playing in New Orleans for a Super Bowl. We don’t need to go back to how we would have all felt seeing Falcons logos and colors in the Crescent City for two weeks.

2013 couldn’t be more opposite for both clubs. New Orleans won the season opener 23-17 thanks to a fourth down goal line stand and since then both season have gone in completely different directions. While the Saints have found the formula that has helped them succeed over the past few years, Atlanta has struggled to run the football, played poor defensively and suffered key injuries to their roster.

The Saints are coming off of a hard fought 23-20 win over San Francisco while the Falcons got blown out in Tampa Bay 41-28. It was the team’s fourth straight loss, something they haven’t done since the 2007 season.

Without question there isn’t the same level of intensity or excitement from the fan bases as there was to start the season. Carolina has replaced Atlanta as the team that is challenging the Saints for the NFC South Crown. The Panthers have won six straight games and remain only one game behind New Orleans.

KEYS TO LOOK AT

The Saints defense has been a key component to the Black and Gold enjoying an 8-2 season. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has seen his secondary ascend to the third ranked passing defense in the NFL giving up 191.4 yards per game. Against the run, the Saints have held opponents to 114.0 yards per game and when you combine the two the Saints are the third ranked defense overall.

Ryan has been able to figure out a way to do this while his defense continues to suffer injury after injury with the latest this past week. Cornerback Jabari Greer’s season came to an end with a gruesome ACL injury to his left leg. Safety Roman Harper saw his first action since September 15 last week against the 49ers and fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins missed the Jets and Cowboys game due to injury .

I mentioned at the top what a difference a season makes and I can’t stop talking about how when it comes to the defense that really means something. The Saints allowed 440.1 yards per game last season and saw offenses average 28.4 points per game against them. This season that is down to 18.3 points per game (fifth in the NFL) and 305.4 yards per game (fourth in the NFL).

Perhaps a key component to the success of Ryan’s defense has been the fact that the Saints offense has been lighting up the scoreboard. New Orleans is the second ranked offense in the NFL averaging 28.8 points per game thanks to an average of 419 yards per game. Ryan’s defense has been able to go into feast mode thanks to teams becoming one dimensional thanks to a deficit.

The Falcons defense conversely is allowing 29.2 points per game which is good for 29th in the NFL and just in the last three games have given up 108 points. Sean Payton and his offense are the third ranked offense in the league overall including the second ranked passing offense in the league thanks to a 321.9 yard average per game.

HOW I SEE IT

The Saints have won 12 out of the last 15 games against Atlanta and clearly this season have the more promising season. One would be hard pressed to even tell that however this week in the Saints locker room as the theme of “this series has been close” started with head coach Sean Payton and trickled down to the players.

Head coach Sean Payton and his players have stressed that the 2-8 record means very little in a series that has been decided by three points or less many times. Truth be told the Saints have their eyes on a bigger prize and currently the Falcons are in the way. Seattle sits atop the NFC standings at 10-1 and are enjoying their bye week this week. They’ll next take to the field on December 2 for a Monday Night Football showdown against the New Orleans Saints.

A win Thursday by the Saints would guarantee a shot at not only tying the Seahawks for the top record in the Conference but it would give the Black and Gold the edge via a tiebreaker. The key of course is to leave Atlanta unscathed. So yeah there is a ton riding on this game.

The Saints right now are playing solid defense and on offense are getting production from the running game. There is no doubt that Atlanta would love nothing more than to play the role of spoiler and will come out giving it their all.

Falcons players this week spoke about how these games now are about jobs for next season. That kind of motivation, a pay check, can be strong but can only take you so far. The Saints offense gets rolling I believe and takes care of business and enjoys a 10-day layoff as they win 34-17,

 

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