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papz 11-13-2012 07:12 AM

ReFo: Falcons @ Saints, Week 10
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New Orleans – Three Performances of Note

Battle of the Tight Ends, Part II

Not to be one-upped by his counterpart for the Falcons, Jimmy Graham (+1.6) came up with a huge performance of his own for the Saints. Catching seven of eight balls thrown his way for 146 yards and two touchdowns, Graham was uncoverable. He did most of his damage against Nicholas and Moore, but even when the Falcons used a corner on him, they had no success stopping the big tight end. This was evident at 6:34 of the third quarter when, despite having great inside position at the snap, Falcons nickel corner Robert McClain still allowed Graham to beat him on the crossing route for a crucial third-down catch.

For all of the spectacular plays Graham makes, he’s also been maddeningly inconsistent. This was on display in the second quarter when he followed up a third-down false start penalty with a drive-killing drop – no player had more entering Week 10 – on a very catchable ball. His nine drops are now two more than he had last season. Of course, the Saints will gladly take a few foolish plays if they more often get the kind of plays like Graham’s third-down catch in the fourth quarter that went for 46 yards, setting up a Garret Hartley field goal that put the game out of reach.

Ground Game

A week after having their best game of the season on the ground, the Saints enjoyed another strong game rushing. With Darren Sproles out, the trio of Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Chris Ivory averaged 5.3 yards per carry on 28 attempts for 149 yards. The group was best running to the edge, where, bolstered by a spectacular 56-yard touchdown run from Ivory (+2.1), they averaged 7.8 yards per carry. Most impressively, though, is that they did it without much help from the offensive line, gaining a ridiculous 147 yards after contact.

Even though Ingram is having probably the best two-game stretch of his short career, Ivory has been the spark. As we pointed out before the game, he offers a combination of size, toughness, and burst that is otherwise absent in the Saints’ talented group of running backs. The speed was evident on his touchdown run, and he broke or eluded five tackles on the game. His seven forced missed tackles in 17 carries this season are just five fewer than what Ingram has done in 70 carries.

Strong Up Front

The much maligned (and for good reasons) Saints defense came up with some huge plays when it counted, especially on two goal-line stands late in the game. They were led by the play of the defensive line, which provided some good pressure on Ryan and was very strong against the run. All eight active linemen received snaps, although the group didn’t have quite as much success as they did a week ago.

Holding the Falcons to just 2.6 yards per carry, the unit was effective in shutting down a strong running attack, particularly near the end zone. The effort of tackle Tom Johnson (+1.4) can’t be overlooked, as he played a critical role in stoning the offensive line on a few plays.

And they weren’t bad rushing the passer either. The group recorded 19 of the defense’s 22 disruptions and pressured Ryan on about 37 percent of his passing attempts. Reserves Martez Wilson and Turk McBride were the most productive on a per-snap basis, combining for five pressures in 23 rushes.

Profootball Focus

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