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Falcons Team Report


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Falcons Team Report

Yahoo! Sports

Nov 11, 2:50 am EST

Inside Slant

Rookie quarterback Matt Ryan continues to climb the steep NFL ladder.

In a showdown with New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Ryan came away with the better overall game, and that bodes well for the Falcons down the stretch.

“We have to continue working the process,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We are a young football team. Our quarterback is maturing each week. As long as he continues to develop, we will continue to add to what we can do offensively.”

Brees entered the game as the league’s top passer but was intercepted three times in critical situations.

Ryan led a balanced Falcons attack that rushed for 113 yards and passed for 248 yards.

Ryan had a passer rating of 134. Brees had a rating of 66.9.

Ryan completed 10 of 13 passes in the first half, one for a touchdown.

“He was very accurate there in the first half,” Smith said. “I thought he threw some great timing routes out in the flat to our wide receivers.

Ryan continues to quickly recognize what defenses are trying to do against him. His decision-making has been solid, and he continues to show the poise of a wily veteran.

“I think he made a heck of a play on a bootleg when they had a linebacker blitzing off the edge,” Smith said. “He was able to avoid him and get the pass to Justin Peelle. I thought that was a big play.”

Ryan tossed touchdown passes to Roddy White and Jerious Norwood. Norwood caught a simple pass in the right flat and took it up the sideline for a touchdown.

“Jerious is such a great athlete, anytime that we feel we can get the ball in his hands, it has an opportunity to go for a touchdown,” Ryan said.

Smith credits his coaches for keeping Ryan on track and for stopping Brees.

“I can’t say enough about our coaching staff,” Smith said. “Mike (Mularkey) and the offensive staff put together a very good game plan. It was executed extremely well. (Defensive coordinator) Brian VanGorder and his staff did a nice job as well.”

Notes, Quotes

• WR Harry Douglas, in his second game as the team’s No. 1 punt returner, had a career-high 25-yard return in the first quarter to set up the Falcons’ first touchdown drive.

The Saints elected to punt the ball out of bounds on their second punt. For the second consecutive game, Adam Jennings, a backup wide receiver and former punt returner, was inactive.

• C Todd McClure was listed as questionable for the game because of a back injury, putting his consecutive games started streak in jeopardy. But he was able to make his 105th consecutive start, passing Patrick Kerney and Terance Mathis into fifth place on the team’s all-time list.

• P Michael Koenen pinned the Saints back deep with the placement of his punts.

“He’s doing a good job with his directional punting,” Smith said. “That’s the reason why we have been the No. 1 team in net punting. It has a lot to do, not with just our coverage team covering extremely well, but also the placement of his kicks have been very, very good.”

Strategy And Personnel

PLAYER NOTES

• CB Chris Houston intercepted his second pass of the season to stop a Saints scoring threat in the fourth quarter.

• CB Domonique Foxworth had five passes defensed, based on the coaches’ film review.

• WR Harry Douglas’ 25-yard return was the second longest this season behind a 37-yard return from Adam Jennings against Kansas City in Week 3.

• RB Jerious Norwood had a 55-yard kickoff return, his second-longest kickoff of the season. Norwood’s longest return of the season came against the Chicago Bears in Week 6 (85 yards).

• DE John Abraham garnered his 11th sack of the season. The sack for Abraham was his 13th in his last 10 games and the 21st in his last 24 contests. He has 781/2 sacks in his career. As a Falcon, Abraham has posted 25 sacks in 32 games played.

• PK Jason Elam made 22- and 27-yard field goals, marking his 27th and 28th consecutive conversions from 20-29 yards.

REPORT CARD VS. SAINTS

Passing Offense: A—QB Matt Ryan continues to be steady at the controls. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints. WR Roddy White continued his march to elite status and a possible Pro Bowl trip. He caught five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. WR Michael Jenkins is also emerging and had six catches for 72 yards, including a 32-yarder that set up a Michael Turner touchdown plunge.

Rushing Offense: B-plus—The Falcons took 8:30 off the clock in the third quarter to keep the Saints potent offense off the field. A 12-play drive ended with a Jason Elam field goal. RB Michael Turner grinded out 32 yards on eight carries, slamming the ball between the tackles on seven carries. Turner came up four yards short of 100 yards, but the drive was a prototype of what the Falcons had hoped to do all game. The grade would have been higher if they could have run out the clock in the fourth quarter, but there was a three-and-out with 9:54 left and they couldn’t run out the final 4:21.

Pass Defense: A-minus—The Saints numbers look gaudy. But most of the 422 yards passing were what the Falcons like to call empty yards that came after they went up 27-6 and sat back in zone coverages. The real story was the 15 pass breakups and three interceptions the defense produced against Saint QB Drew Brees. FS Erik Coleman, RCB Chris Houston and rookie nickel back Chevis Jackson all had key interceptions. Jackson returned his first career interception 95 yards for a back breaking fourth quarter touchdown. LCB Domonique Foxworth was outstanding in digging out five balls before the Saints decided to leave his side of the field alone.

Rush Defense: A—NT Big Grady Jackson set the tone when he swallowed up Saints running back Pierre Thomas for no gain in the second quarter. The Saints rushed for 105 yards on 17 carries, but 30 of those yards came on a reverse by WR Devery Henderson. The Saints want to run just enough to keep a defense honest, but there wasn’t much room for Thomas and Deuce McAlister to work. Rookie MLB Curtis Lofton continued to deliver punishing hits and finished with six tackles.

Special Teams: A—WR Harry Douglas had a big 25-yard punt return, and RB Jerious Norwood got loose for a 55-yard kickoff return. Punter Michael Koenen dropped three of his four punts inside the 20 and a net average of 35.3 as none of the punts were returned. PK Jason Elam continues to be clutch, making two short field goals.

Coaching: A-plus—The coaching staff came up with another workable game plan that their players executed. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey continues to blend the skills of RBs Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood. Turner is the power back and the fleet Norwood is the perimeter buster. Norwood is also starting to set up his blockers better and finish off his runs by lowering his pads and delivering blows to defenders. Turner and Norwood accounted for 201 of the Falcons’ 361 yards. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was determined not to let Drew Brees just sit in the pocket and pick apart the secondary. He sent blitzes designed to at least get Brees off his spot and to get in his face.

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