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Falcons add to Saints' worries


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Falcons add to Saints' worries

Falcons add to Saints' worries

by Howie Long

Updated Sep 26, 2010 11:33 PM ET

The Saints, the defending champs, have to be a little concerned. Not only did they lose in overtime to their biggest rival in the NFC South, the Atlanta Falcons, but they also still have to play a month or more without Reggie Bush, who can turn a 5-yard dump-off pass into 15, 25 yards or even a touchdown. They also lost cornerback Tracy Porter, one of their defensive stars in the Super Bowl, and that’s not good, either.

The Falcons won by being able to pound the ball on the Saints. They have something very good going right now with Michael Turner and Jason Snelling pounding the middle of the line. But I came away from the game being impressed by the growth of quarterback Matt Ryan. A year ago, he went into the Superdome, and he threw three interceptions, two inside the 5-yard line. Today, zero.

Instead, it was Drew Brees who uncharacteristically turned the ball over. Since the 15th game of last season, he had gone 241 pass attempts without a pick. But he threw two interceptions today, so turnovers were the difference.

Each and every personnel move general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith have made was geared toward beating New Orleans, particularly on defense with the acquisition of Dunta Robinson and rookie linebacker Sean Witherspoon. They made moves to improve their overall team speed and pass coverage, and it’s working.

Brees took a big hit on his left knee toward the end of the game. I’m not sure whether that factored into Sean Payton’s decision to not try to punch it in when they got down to the Atlanta 11-yard line. Payton opted to kick the field goal immediately with a first down. And when Garrett Hartley missed that 29-yarder, the Saints defense got worn down on the final drive.

Defensively, the Saints have made a living off giving up the yards and counting on their opponents to make mistakes. No defense does a better job of stripping the ball away from the opponents. But with the exception of the fluke turnover on the punt return, the Saints produced zip in this big division game.

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I don't see why everyone is so shocked. Through 2 more games this season, the Saint's have shown how terrible their defense is and how mediocre the offense is.

For an offense so powerful:

2009: PPG(o) - 31.9 - PPG(d) - 21.3

2010: PPG(o) - 21.0 - PPG(d) - 19.3

This is through 3 weeks in which they played a struggling defense in Minnesota and the 49ers (who lost 31-10 to the Chiefs).

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