In the nest of a Dirty Bird - Questions with an Atlanta Falcon's expert
By beating the Falcons in the Superdome this Sunday, the Saints will improve to 3-0 while Atlanta will fall to 1-2 and give New Orleans a decided two-game advantage over what many believe to be their top competition in the NFC South this season. Sure the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0 as well and showing a lot of promise, but my gut feeling tells me that is something that simply won't last.
To figure out exactly how Sunday's game may go, Atlanta Falcons Examiner Phil Foley and myself decided to pass each other 5 questions about the match-up and see just what is going to be needed to win. Check out my answers to his questions in his article: Know Your Opponent.
Danny Cox: Both Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood went down with injuries last week, but Jason Snelling came in and filled in with big numbers. That was against Arizona though so some may see his numbers as being a bit skewed. Do you think Snelling can repeat that type of performance against a stronger defense like that of the Saints?
Phil Foley: The good news (for the Falcons) is that Snelling is most likely going to have to. The groin injury to Turner is considered relatively minor and he should be back on Sunday. However, even if the Dirty Birds rely solely on Snelling on Sunday, he should be fine against a New Orleans defense that ceded 151 yards on the ground to Turner the last time these two teams met at the Superdome.
Yes, Snelling’s numbers were not spectacular in the team’s last matchup at the Georgia Dome, where notching just 37 yards on 10 carries. However, neither Turner nor Ryan played in that Week 14 matchup. Plus, Atlanta was playing from behind the whole game and relied more heavily on the passing game. Assuming this one is competitive from the start, Snelling should be fine as Atlanta’s No. 2 rusher. He won’t gain 125 yards on the ground, but he’ll get 10-15 touches for 50 or 60 yards.
DC: The Saints' secondary has been playing spirited football so far this season and contained Brett Favre while then pulling in two interceptions off of Alex Smith. Who should Matt Ryan target on the Falcons' offense to try and make sure the passing game gets opened up?
PF: Ryan has never really had a hard time finding targets in the air against the Saints, averaging 284 yards in his three starts against the NFC South rival. The Atlanta’s third-year QB’s biggest problem against New Orleans is that he has been prone to throwing interceptions (four in three games).
Look for the Falcons to minimize the risk of a pick by following the same game plan they did in their 41-7 rout of Arizona, with Snelling and Turner getting some looks on either screen passes or short possession-type passes. Atlanta will also try to get Hall of Fame lock Tony Gonzalez more involved in this one. He has only four catches in the Falcons’ first two games. If they can make this happen, look for the deep ball to remain available and for Ryan to make a few home run passes to Roddy White, his go-to receiver so far this season.
DC: Reggie Bush is out. The Saints' offense hasn't yet seemed to wake up this season. Will Atlanta's defense apply the pressure to Drew Brees or will they play conservatively and just make sure to keep them in check?
PF: The Falcons know what a potent weapon Brees is at quarterback and know that the New Orleans signal caller has relatively had his way with the Atlanta D in the past, with or without Bush. Brees has a 100.3 lifetime QB rating against the Falcons. He has passed for 2,570 yards and 17 TDs in nine games.
However, those outside of Atlanta may not know how much improved that Atlanta defense has been thus far this season. The Falcons used the offseason addressing their pass rush issues by luring free agent cornerback Dunta Robinson away from the Houston Texans and using their first round pick to nab Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon. They also have a healthy Peria Jerry on the D-line, Kroy Biermann has been spectacular taking over for the missing-in-action Jamaal Anderson and a John Abraham looks like he has regained his missing form.
These additions to the Atlanta defense will allow the club to use some different and novel defensive packages to keep the pressure on Brees to disrupt the QB’s rhythm.
Read the rest of the question at The Examiner
hmm - Good questions
Danny Cox is too. If he weren't then we would hate on him.
I have really enjoyed this series of articles.
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