Sunday, September 26, 2010

4 Things That Need to Happen for the Saints to beat the Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons come down to the Big Easy for a showdown over NFC South supremacy today.
The Saints, 2-0, have had one of the NFL's most potent offenses over the last few years. But not this year. The offense has scored only two touchdowns each in the two games this season. The Saints margin of victory this year? 3.2 points.
Still, the Falcons, who looked like world beaters last week when they obliterated the Arizona Cardinals 41-7, can't afford to rest on their laurels.
Here are 4 things that need to happen for the Saints fans to continue to party on Bourbon Street after the game.

GO LONG: The Saints have taken several shots downfield this season and the success has been lacking. Speedy receiver Devery Henderson has been just out of the reach on a couple of those balls as Drew Brees shook the rust off in week 1 and had to contend with high winds in week 2. These week, playing in the Super Dome, he'll have none of those excuses. Henderson and Robert Meachem will both need to fly downfield and look up for the deep ball.
The Falcons have upgraded their secondary specifically for this game (despite what they say), so they have been anxiously awaiting the aerial techniques of Brees and Co.

RUN, PIERRE, RUN: Running back Pierre Thomas has not had a breakout game this season although he has been effective in spurts. With Reggie Bush out for at least 6 weeks, Thomas will have to show that he can carry the load now. The Saints brought in former Redskins runner LaDell Betts for change up, but Thomas will be the majority of the carries. In two games so far, he's averaging a paltry 3.2 yards a carry, but let's face it: Thomas has asked to be the focal point in the Saints running attack for a few seasons now, here's his chance. Against a stout Falcons defense, is 100 yards on the ground asking too much of the Saints running game?

T.O. RATIO: Saints lived off turnovers on their run to the Super Bowl last year, and this year they've seemed to get better at it, if that's possible. While the Saints are 19th against the pass, they are No. 1 in the NFC in forcing turnovers. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes, but surely, in a hostile dome for the first time this season, he'll make a few.

STOP TURNER: No NFL team, anywhere this season, has faced three premier running backs in three consecutive weeks as the Saints will be doing when Falcons bruiser Michael Turner comes to town. In week 1, the Saints held Adrian Peterson to 87 yards. In week 2, Frank Gore slashed them for 5 yards a carry on the way to 112 big ones on the ground (It would have been worse if the Saints didn't force crucial turnovers inside their own 30 yard line three times). Now comes Turner, who churned up the Saints for more than 150 yards in their last meeting at the Dome. Turner is not the fastest back, but when he's going downhill he is hard to bring down. Also add all purpose back Jason Snelling, who ran out of his mind last week vs. Arizona (129 yards) and the Falcons are bringing the most potent running tandem the Saints have faced this year and maybe last year too.

But -- and that's a big but -- if the Saints can do the aforementioned things today, the Saints win. And that's my story.

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