The Atlanta Falcons will play host to the Super Bowl defending Champions New Orleans Saints Monday night in Atlanta. This has been a much anticipated game for both teams after the stunning game between these teams in the third week of the season.
The Falcons would win a game that was all but lost. Garrett Hartley would line up with a 29-yard field goal in overtime, but he would miss it. Matt Ryan would then lead the Falcons down the field and set up a game-winning 46-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.
The one thing that stood out from this game, that didn’t get mentioned as much as it should have been. I am not talking not talking about something that happened in overtime, or even something that happened in the second half. The Falcons had a drive in the second quarter that was nothing other than methodical.
The Falcons would get the ball with 11:42 left in the second quarter. They were about to embark on one of the most impressive drives I have seen in the entire NFL this season.
That drive consisted of 20 plays, 70 yards, 2 third-down conversions, 2 fourth-down conversions, and it took off 10:39 minutes off of the clock. That is 17% of the game in one drive.
This drive summarizes what the Falcons offense has accomplished all season. They simply drive down the field, and they don’t do anything special. They just run behind Michael Turner, and then they have the passing game led by Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez.
So, how can the Falcon’s improve their 8-game winning streak to 9 games with a win against the Saints Monday night.
1) Falcons Do What Falcons Do.
The Falcons offense has been one of the most consistent offenses in the NFL this season. Other defenses know what the Falcons offense is going to do. They know that Michael Turner is going to wear you down throughout the game, they know that Matt Ryan and Company will methodically drive the Falcons down the field. But for some strange reason, this has been proven to be a very difficult task. It is because they simply do not make mistakes. They don’t turn the ball over, and they don’t commit penalties. They aren’t a sexy team, they are a dominant one. And they are a team that does something that is very important, and that is win.
2) Defense Needs to Make Drew Brees Uncomfortable
Drew Brees and the Saints offense hasn’t been as effective as they were last season during their Super Bowl run. For some reason, maybe due to the injuries to some Saints, Brees has simply not been the QB that he has been in the past. The numbers back this statement up. He has thrown 19 interceptions this year, more than any other year in his 10 year career. The Falcons defense will need to add to this total in order to win. The key will be for the Falcons D-Line to be able to put pressure on Brees by only bringing 4 and dropping 7. If the Falcons are forced to blitz, this could open up holes for the Saints to take advantage of, which could lead to the Falcons giving up 20-30+ points.
3) Special Teams Need to Be Special
For me, Special Teams can be an X-factor for every single game. Some people will discredit the important of good special teams, but it truly is a third phase of the game of football, that can have a huge impact on the result of the game. I always have agreed with the statement that whatever team makes the fewest mistakes will win. I am also a firm believer that Special Teams can make a huge impact on games. Matt Bryant and Eric Weems have both made clutch plays this season that have helped the Falcons to secure victories. The Falcons return team almost gave up the game against Tampa Bay at home, but the defense came up big in the fourth quarter.
4) Falcons Can’t Play Conservative
An interesting stat about the Falcons offense, is that they are 11-13 on 4th-down conversions. This is a reflection of the confidence that Mike Smith has in his offense to convert these plays. The Falcons won’t necessarily take that many shots down the field, but that’s because they simply don’t need to (Point #1). The Falcons won’t necessarily need to play a risky game, but they can’t afford to be something that they’re not, and that is conservative.
5) Falcons Fans Need to Rise Up
You’ve seen it on all of the commercials with Samuel L. Jackson telling Falcon’s to Rise Up and Defend the Dome. New Orleans will bring a plethora of fans to the Georgia Dome on Monday, but the Dome will be rocking for the Atlanta Falcons. Fans need to get their early and make this a playoff-type atmosphere. This is a game that has been hyped since about September 26th at about 4:15. This game has been on the minds of the players, the coaches, and the fans ever since. Atlanta and their fans will need to Rise Up and Defend the Dome, like they’ve done all year.
If the Falcons can accomplish these five tasks, they will win this game by at least a touchdown. But chances are they will hit some road bumps during the game. How this team responds to them, will be telling of how good this team can really be. So far this season, they have shown that they are a team that can deal with adversity, and a team that doesn’t quit until the clock hits 0:00.