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It’s all eyes on this coming Sunday’s game with the San Francisco 49ers, but one last note from last week’s thrilling overtime win by the Atlanta Falcons over the reigning Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. In an interview with 790 The Zone on Wedensday, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez was asked about the shot he took from Roman Harper. His response:
"Yeah. I don’t know if he was trying to take me out, but I think when you’re tackling at the knee, to me that’s a little bit chicken. (Host: Somebody got you up high.) I got high-lowed there. It hurt and I paid for it. Yesterday I could barely walk to be honest with ya. I got some great anti-inflammatories working for me so I’m walking a little bit today, but that could’ve been season over for me that night. I had to let ‘em, I can’t say it on air, but I let him know he wasn’t a very nice person for that."
Experience the ups and downs of the most exciting game in the NFL this season. NFL Network is re-airing the Falcons' 27-24 win over the Saints on Tuesday at 9:15pm ET. A tip of the hat to Jay Adams for alerting us.
Relive Tony Gonzalez embarrassing the Saints secondary. Watch Roddy White destroy Malcolm Jenkins on a go-ahead touchdown. See Matt Ryan reclaim the mantle of Matty Ice. And enjoy the feeling of silencing an entire dome. We Dat!
It's the perfect compliment to your Tuesday evening ritual of
watching Glee breaking down Falcons' stats.
Canal Street Chronicles:
Black And Gold:
The Falcons rolled up 417 yards of offense and upset the defending Super Bowl champions, 27-24 in overtime. Matt Bryant connected on a 46-yard field goal in overtime sending the Falcons to 2-1 and into a three-way tie for first place in the NFC South.
The Falcons dominated time of possession holding the ball for over 45 minutes. Up next is the 49ers.
We'll update with further information when we hear something.
In a thrilling back-and-forth game, the Falcons and Saints will need an extra quarter to decide this one. The Saints hit a game-tying field goal with four seconds remaining to tie the game at 24. This is the second overtime game this season for the Falcons. They lost in Week 1 to Pittsburgh 15-9.
Back and forth we go and in the words of Brian Billick, "this is like a heavyweight fight!"
Drew Brees hit Lance "Reggie Bush-who?" Moore on a touchdown pass as the third quarter comes to a close.
Both teams have combined for 527 total yards. The defenses may join us in the fourth quarter. Stay tuned.
Here’s your link to the video.
Analysis: Falcons are in a shotgun, three wide, Gonzalez at Tight End, Snelling in the backfield. Roddy’s route is an out and in, Gonzelez runs a deep slant or post, Finneran runs a curl route, and it’s unclear what Douglas’s route was because he never broke contact with his man. If you pause the video at about the 3 second mark, you can see that all of the routes are very well covered, even Snelling, who’s attempting to slip out in the flat. Watching Matt Ryan’s head, he never turns to look at either side, so he seems to be watching Gonzo all the way.
Gonzo was the first read, and this was more timing than anything else, as Ryan throws just as Gonzo cuts to make a bit of space. It’s a great throw into a tight spot, and a great catch by Gonzalez to haul it in with a man on him. This play is pure execution over design, since the Saints did everything possible on defense and still weren’t able to prevent this TD reception.
Another long drive - 11 plays - ended with a 23-yard Matt Bryant field goal giving the Falcons their first lead of the game. Michael Turner and Jason Snelling are finding lots of running room and have combined for 97 yards rushing.
The Falcons lead time of possession 27 minutes to 14 minutes.
Good news for the Falcons from Jeff Duncan:
Tony Gonzalez has made up for the extra coverage rolled towards Roddy White with 5 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. Neither ground game has been able to get rolling but Michael Turner leads all rushers with 36 yards on 16 carries.
If not for a special teams breakdown and a blown coverage, the Falcons would have this game well in hand. Uncle Mo is definitely in the Falcons corner as we head to the third quarter.
The Falcons chose to keep the ball away from Drew Brees and they did with a 19-play drive that took almost 12 minutes off the clock.
14-14 with a minute to go in the 2nd quarter.
Tony Gonzalez has three catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.
On to the second quarter we go.
The Falcons answered like a playoff team with a nine-play, 80-yard drive culminating with a Matt Ryan to Tony Gonzalez touchdown. We're all tied up at seven and the SuperDome has to stop with that "Who Dat" chant for a while now.From Dave Choate of The Falcoholic:
After a three-and-out by the Falcons that saw a 3rd down catch by Harry Douglas ruled incomplete on a challenge, the Saints' Lance Moore returns a Michael Koenen punt 72 yards to the Falcons' six-yard line.
From Football Outsiders:
The Falcons face an opportunistic defense, one that finished third in the NFL last year with 26 interceptions. The Saints are currently second in the NFL in turnover margin, taking the ball away five times on defense and turning it over none on offense so far this season. Atlanta ranks sixth in the league with a plus-2 margin. Under Smith, when the Falcons win the turnover battle, they are 11-1.
Via the Official Site:
William Moore will start for Coleman today, hopefully continuing his streak of picking off a pass in every game this season. Harry Douglas gets the start in Jenkins’ absence.
With the Falcons preparing to take on New Orleans in the Superdome today, a location at which they haven't won since 2002, in a series that has been dominated by the defending superbowl champions in the Drew Brees era, Falcons fans could be forgiven if they were anxious about today's game, even dreading it. However, the prevailing wind that seems to be blowing among the Falcons' constituency this week though has been hope. This is a game worth looking forward to-and here's a few reasons why.
New Orleans may have dominated the series lately, but they're certainly not blowing the Falcons out of the building, even if they are 7-1 under Drew Brees in the rivalry. When the Falcons visited the Superdome last year, they had their chances to win. A field goal put them within four early in the fourth, and then almost immediately a recovered fumble deep in Saints territory. An untimely Matt Ryan interception at the one yard line turned into what would ultimately be the clinching Saints' drive, but even then, the Falcons still had their opportunity at a last second heave which could have potentially tied the game (pending a two point conversion). During the home tilt last year, the Falcons lost by only three points, despite being down their starting QB and starting RB, both of whom will be suiting up today.
In 2008, the Falcons split the series with the Saints, taking the home half of the split behind an opportunistic defense that picked Brees three times, while the game at the Superdome that year was only a four point loss, a game in which Atlanta did take the lead in the fourth quarter. Of course, they immediately gave up a long kick return to Pierre Thomas, who handed a very short field to Drew Brees with predictable results. So the series isn't quite as one-sided as perhaps the W/L suggests in recent years. The games have been good, back-and-forth affairs.
A quick look at the season numbers also suggests reasons for optimism today: The Falcons have given up fewer yards while gaining more. They've scored more points while allowing fewer. Obviously, the Cardinals were not much of an obstacle at all last week, but it was still encouraging (from a Falcons' perspective) to see a team like the 49ers, with serious questions at quarterback, drive 82 yards in 53 seconds to take the lead late over the Saints in the fourth quarter on Monday night. So feel free to drink the red and black cool-aid this morning, even if it does sound kind of gross.
With Jenkins questionable, it looks like the three amigos - Harry Douglas, Brian Finneran and Eric Weems - could see the bulk of the time at the No. 2 receiver position.
Coleman is listed as questionable but I'd be surprised to see him play given William Moore's performance last week.
And the Burner is good to go. He had 151 yards and a touchdown the last time he played the Saints.
Drew Brees threw for 352 yards and two touchdowns as the Saints held on to beat the Falcons, 25-20. Atlanta hung tough with the defending champs, taking the final drive inside the red zone with under two minutes to play, but when Matt Ryan's pass to Roddy White was picked off inside the end zone, the Saints had survived another close call, pushing their record to 3-0.
Player of the Game: Drew Brees
Some problems with the Sim:
It's going to be a close game, no one thinks otherwise, but if the Falcons have the ball in the red zone with under two minutes to play with a chance to take the lead, every Falcon fan in America would take those odds.
Raph Malbrough on how the Saints-Falcons rivalry has changed for the better, now that both teams are good:
Don’t get me wrong, hating the Falcons is already quite delicious. My hatred for all things Falcon warms my soul on a cold November night during the football season. My hatred for the Falcons has been pure and good except beating the Falcons has never really meant anything.
Sure, beating the Falcons in the Superdome used to mean not having to watch Atlanta fans leave the stadium doing that drunken cousin version of the chicken dance they called the ‘Dirty Bird’ and that was reason enough to celebrate for a month. But the Saints-Falcons games always had the importance of two hungry men fighting over a can of cat food. It didn’t really matter who won because deep down both team’s fans knew they were losers. Hating the Falcons most of the time was like watching your dumb next door neighbor fall down in the mud and then laughing at him. Then the next day you fall in the same mud he did the day before and he mocks you. This has gone on for 40 plus years.
Well my friends it’s all about to change. The Saints have the Lombardi trophy and the Falcons finally managed to cobble together two straight winning seasons for the first time ever. The Saints-Falcon games are important now. Playoffs, division titles, and homefield advantage might all be in play! So the hatred will only intensify - just you wait.
We agree with our whole, hateful hearts. The battle for last place has become a battle for first, and that makes us so happy we're cinder-blocking a huge stack of Ataris out back in a couple minutes. Bring your camera. For success; for hate!
This is hands-down the most appalling press pass of all time, for four specific reasons. First, look at the thing.
From Jay Adams DUH IT SAYS JAY ADAMS RIGHT THERE ON IT:
OUTRAGE THE FIRST: The Falcons haven't used that helmet since the '70s. Note the gray face mask. The team changed gray out for white in 1978, then for black in 1984. The whole hat went black in 1990, as its stayed except for throwback games ever since. [Feel-good note: In our 1977 season series with the Saints, we outscored them 55-28. So if that's how yall wanna play it, that works for us.] This is the biggest timeline outrage since it was unveiled the Cowboys still use our 2002 logo on their draft board, meaning it's an even bigger outrage than when Fox showed 2006 footage of the Georgia Dome last week and pretended it was live.
OUTRAGE THE SECOND: That thing above the NFL logo in the bottom-left corner.
OUTRAGE THE THIRD: Everyone knows the road team gets listed first.
OUTRAGE THE LAST: Why does it say "GAME 4?" It's week three, guys. What do you think about that math, Darren Sharper?
Hey, you did it too! In the song, T-Pain only says three wins there, but you said four. Everyone in New Orleans must think three and four are interchangeable, except Lil Wayne, whose Carter albums have been sequenced properly so far.
Yes, they're counting two preseason home games in there; hush your mouth, it's hate week.
D. Orlando Ledbetter let us know the Falcons would be bringing Jenkins along slowly but it's nice to see there's been no setbacks. He may not start, but it looks like the chances are good we'll see No. 12 out there on Sunday.
Turner is ready to go but after last Sunday, I would not be surprised to see a 60/40 split in carries between the Burner and Jason Snelling.
Since arriving in New Orleans before the 2006 season, Drew Brees has set the bar at quarterback for the rest of the NFL. During his four-plus seasons with the Saints, he's number one in pass attempts, completions, yards and number two in touchdowns. Throw in a Super Bowl title and he's as good as there is.
This Sunday, he'll square off against Matt Ryan, a quarterback who is expected to deliver - before his career is over - a Super Bowl title of his own to a Falcon fanbase entering their 45th title-less season. While Brees is enjoying "Golden Boy" status and being the Madden cover athlete, Ryan has faced quite a bit of scrutiny since the playoff loss in Arizona at the conclusion of the 2008 season.
Following a tremendous rookie season - one that I argue was the best ever - reports surfaced that Ryan regressed in 2009 culminating in many news outlets - after the Steelers loss in Week 1 - questioning whether the Falcons' organization still had faith in him as the face of the franchise. After Ryan reclaimed the mantle of Matty Ice in his systematic destruction of the Cardinals last Sunday, those reports have cooled. Still, if Ryan struggles again - and he could against an opportunistic Saints' defense - the naysayers will again crawl out of the woodwork.
But they shouldn't. Here's why.
Ryan has started 33 games as an NFL quarterback while Brees will making his 124th start this Sunday. We've discussed where Brees is now as a quarterback but where was he when he was making his 34th start as a pro? Let's compare the numbers.
We can see that comparatively speaking, Ryan is well ahead of Brees at the same point in their respective careers. Now, you can argue scheme and surrounding talent play a big factor but the most important numbers - win/loss - are heavily in Ryan's favor. Throw in the fact that the average age of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback is 30 years old and Ryan has time.
What does the future hold for Ryan's next 90 starts? No one can know for sure, but after the first 33, there's reason for optimism.
We covered how WhatIfSports thinks the Falcons-Saints game will go and now we take a walk around the web and find out what the experts - and one non-expert - think of the NFL's Game of the Week. My favorite prediction engine - the Madden Simulation - will be up later today so stay tuned.
For those of you scoring at home, that's seven picks for the Falcons and 13 (counting WhatIfSports prediction) for the Saints.
My feeling is we'll see a close game. The Falcons, in my opinion, are a better team than the Saints right now. All things being equal on a neutral field, the Falcons are the pick. But the Superdome is a spooky place and that's why I'm hesitating. I've picked the Falcons first two games correctly - even nailing the spread in Week 1 - so I have to follow my instincts again. Saints 27, Falcons 26.
"Reggie Bush is a good football player, but they have a whole bunch of other players," Smith said. "In terms of game-planning, there is a little bit of an unknown. When Reggie Bush is in the game, he's going to get his touches. Now you're basically working on a premise of: Where's the ball going to go? Who's it going to go to?
"Drew has lots of weapons. If he wants to work the tight end, he can work the tight end. If he wants to work the vertical stretch with the receivers, he has the guys who can run down the field. (Marques) Colston's a guy who can catch it running across the middle. (Running back) Pierre (Thomas) is leading the team in catches right now. It's an unknown when you have players out."
As Jason Kirk updated you before, the Saints aren't panicking without their
Heisman Trophy-winning running back and as the piece reminds us, the Saints played a big game last season without Bush and the result wasn't exactly a bad one.
Since Bush was drafted second overall in 2006, he has missed 12 games because of various injuries. The Saints are 8-4 in those games, and they played one of their best games last season -- a 38-17 triumph over the New England Patriots -- when Bush was unable to suit up.
Bush has sort become similar to our own Michael Jenkins. When he plays, everyone bashes him for not producing. Yet, when he's out of the lineup, millions of words are written about how he will be missed and he was the cog that drove the offense.
From Jay Adams’ transcript of Drew Brees’ call with Falcons media:
“He’s a very talented player. Obviously, I remember him from playing against the Texans when I was in the AFC playing with the Chargers, and he’s only gotten better as he’s gotten older. He adds an element where obviously they feel pretty confident locking him up on a receiver backside and doing whatever they want to do frontside. That’s probably another reason you’re able to bring more pressure, when you’re confident the corners are able to hold up one-on-one. He’s definitely been an upgrade for them.”
Yes, but can he hide behind your receiver due to his diminutive stature, a la his predecessor Chris Houston? He cannot.
Today is Say Something Nice About Chris Houston Day, by the way.
Canal Street Chronicles discusses the signing.
Ladell Betts was released by the Redskins in March after eight years, 3,176 rushing yards, 1,505 receiving yards, and 86 kick returns. He signed with the Saints in August and was released earlier this month.
His skill set certainly approximates Bush’s, as he’s usually been a backup who finds his way onto the field in numerous roles. He’s more squatty and not as darty as Bush. His most famous moment came in 2009, when an equipment specialist confused him with a certain Hall of Famer:
Betts may not see the field this Sunday. Pierre Thomas will get almost all of the Saints’ carries. If Chris Ivory’s knee holds up, he’ll function as the backup. Ivory is an undrafted rookie who had an impressive preseason. Deshawn Wynn, the only other active-roster halfback, was released earlier today.
So, basically, it’s the Pierre Thomas show. In Thomas’ three games against Atlanta as the Saints’ featured back, he’s scored four touchdowns and piled up 254 yards from scrimmage. So it’s sort of already been the Pierre Thomas show.
Welcome to the pre-game quick hit stats-apalooza. Enjoy.
Their Week 3 meeting will be the 82nd time the Falcons and Saints have played each other in their team's history. The Falcons hold a 45-37 edge but the Saints have won seven of eight dating back to 2006.
The Falcons record against the Saints (by decade):
Average Score in all 82 meetings:
Most Points Scored:
Falcons 62, Sept. 16, 1973
Highlight: The Falcons forced 8 turnovers and rolled up 496 yards of offense.
Saints 45, Oct. 19, 2003
Fewest Points Scored:
Falcons 0, Nov. 1, 1987 and Oct. 10, 1976
Lowlight: In 1987, QB Scott Campbell throws 5 picks and in 1976, the Falcons gave up seven turnovers.
Saints 0, Sept. 6, 1981 and Dec. 12, 1982
The Saints' Sean Payton is 44-27 as a head coach. He is 2-2 in Week 3 games lifetime.
Mike Smith is 21-14 as Falcons head coach and has a 1-1 record in Week 3.
Best Individual Performances Against the Saints:
Roddy White needs 122 yards to become only the fourth Falcon to reach 5,000 yards receiving for his career.
Tony Gonzalez needs 125 yards to reach 12,000 yards from scrimmage. He's rushed for 14 yards in his career.
Via the official site:
Tremendous news that Jenkins is practicing again - albeit limited. If he's able to practice all week without a setback, we should see Douglas back in the slot and the field should open up for Matt Ryan to finally break his Roddy White addiction. Not that I'm complaining.
Coleman's absence means William Moore will get another chance to secure the starting safety job going forward. Turner's limited participation is (hopefully) just a precaution but after seeing what NFC Offensive Player of the Week, Jason Snelling did to the Cardinals, I'm not really concerned.
Pat Yasinkas writes:
Over the three previous seasons, the Saints have played 12 games without Bush. In those games, they went 8-4 and have averaged 33.4 points a game. Last season, they played two games without Bush. They won them both and averaged 38 points a game.
In 2008, Bush missed six games. The Saints went 4-2 and averaged 35.2 points per game. One other encouraging piece of information to look at here is that the Saints aren’t exactly facing a lineup of super teams the next six weeks.
Even though 12 games isn’t much of a sample size, this wouldn’t be the first reason to come to the conclusion that the Saints have often gotten in the habit of forcing the ball to Bush.
Most of the chart remains unchanged from last week except for Jerious Norwood's absence, paving the way for Jason Snelling and newly-acquired Gartrell Johnson to move up the ranks. Michael Jenkins and Erik Coleman are still listed as starters though their availability this week remains in doubt.
The injury report comes out later today so we should know more on the status of Jenkins, Coleman, Christopher Owens and Michael Turner (though he's expected to be fine). Of course, the injury report may not be the deciding factor in the Moore and Coleman battle. Moore, with two tackles and an interception, may have done enough in Sunday's game to keep him in the lineup regardless of Coleman's health.
Four of five services list the Saints as four-and-a-half-point favorites, with OddsMaker going for four.
Home-field advantage is traditionally thought to count as a three-point swing, though in the Superdome’s case it’s probably more like three-and-a-half. That means the Falcons would only be underdogs by a point or so if the game were being played on a neutral field.
The over-under is set at either 49.5 or 50. The teams haven’t combined for fewer than 50 points in a game since 2007.
Pat Yasinkas asks Matt Williamson about how the loss of Reggie Bush impacts the Saints’ offense:
“As far as just the running game, they’ve usually used Reggie with another guy or two,’’ Williams said. “They’ve seemed reluctant to ever trust Pierre to be a true work-horse type, but they might not have a choice now and he’s going to have to step up because they still are going to have to run the ball and eat the clock. If they’re not able to do this, it’s really going to hurt their defense as well as their offense.’’
“My immediate thought is that they’re going to have to rely even more on their depth at wide receiver,’’ Williamson said. “That’s one of their biggest strengths and this injury creates a weakness. You try to fix that weakness by playing to your strengths.’’
The insanely fun site, WhatIfSports, has released their predictions for the NFL's Week 3 slate of games. Included in the mix is, of course, the game of the week, Atlanta at New Orleans. Before we get to the expected outcome, let's review how their crystal ball works.
Every week WhatIfSports.com simulates thousands of NFL games. This week the New Orleans Saints win 75.9% of the time by an average score of 28.2-18.1. The stats in the box score below represent the average outcomes of those simulations.
The Falcons won the simulation just under a fourth of the time. Despite my Falcons' bias, that seems about right. Like Jason Kirk before me, I have my fair share of vehement hate towards the fleur-de-lis but they are the Super Bowl champions. Playing at home. And undefeated. No computer simulation would pick the Falcons facing those odds.
We'll continue to track the predictions - computer and human - for this game as the week progresses. Will anyone in the national media be brave enough to pick the Falcons?
The Saints will be without their punt returner and explosive utility back this Sunday against the Falcons. Reggie Bush will miss the Saints’ next four to six games.
Reggie Bush was trampled while diving to recover a botched punt return last night in San Francisco, with his left leg bending beneath a very large Niner. He attempted to walk off the field under his own strength, but crumpled to the turf after a couple steps.
In six career games against the Falcons, Bush has scored five touchdowns and averaged 64.9 yards from scrimmage. He was New Orleans’ third-leading rusher and fourth-leading receiver last year, though he had been higher on both lists so far this season. If he’s out for only four games, Bush will miss three division games.
"College-like," "bitter," "as heated as any," "underappreciated," and "one of the most colorful rivalries in all of sport." Yes Atlanta, we have the Saints on Sunday, and it's time for six days of vigorous seething at full amplitude and stuff like this.
You know you're looking at a great rivalry when you see a fanbase on top of the world that still finds time to take shots. Think about, say, any of UNC's non-Duke rivals. Unless Carolina loses to Wake Forest or N.C. State, they don't really care about either of those schools. Those aren't great rivalries. But Carolina hates Duke before, during, and after every win over every opponent.
This rivalry is the same way:
Comparing resumes: The Birds lost in overtime against what looks to be a mighty Steelers defense, then had to pump the brakes to keep from hanging half a hundred on the crumbling Cardinals. The Saints won a low-scoring rematch with the Vikings before escaping with a win last night in San Francisco that made it clear there are still supernatural forces on their side. This paragraph may sound biased, but I can't figure out how to fix it.
Series history: Atlanta leads, 44-38 and 1-0 in postseason play. Saints board Who Dat Zone recounts a few of the bigger meetings, which would need to be updated to include the "Katrina game," the second-highest rated cable broadcast in history and the beginning of Atlanta's short reign as the NFL's heels. Another perspective, and my yearly link to a Bleacher Report article:
A local radio talk show host printed up a batch of "I Hate the Falcons" t-shirts." The batch sold out in three days. Three decades later, mine still hangs in my locker. I sneer every time I look at it.
Last meeting: The Saints outlasted host Atlanta's B-team 26-23 as Mike Mularkey dialed up his most curious crunch-time potpourri of end-arounds, shovels, and whimsy. In their last Superdome meeting, the Saints won 35-27 on Monday night in a game I'd like to spend seven straight breathless minutes complaining to you about (CALL ME).
Saints to watch: Clutch plays by Jonathan Vilma made the difference in both of last year's meetings, including a confusingly high leap to tip a would-be Matt Ryan touchdown pass into Tracy Porter's hands and a fourth-down stonewalling of Jason Snelling. Let's keep an eye on Vilma this time around.
Also monitoring: Absolutely nothing.
How we feel about all this: We feel furious, and it's only Tuesday. Listen, even as a Tech fan, this is the rivalry game I care most about. By a mile. From making a WE DAT shirt the week before the Falcons knocked the Saints out of the '91 playoffs to watching this video about 180,000 times, this is the one. And I'm not alone; Saints fans can't even win a Super Bowl without mentioning the Falcons.
Vegas says: Vegas has not decided yet, since the Saints only finished playing nine hours ago. New Orleans will be significantly favored, as they should be. They're likely still the better team, and have one of the league's best home-field advantages. I bet on the Saints to cover last year in the Superdome, and they failed.
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