The Atlanta Falcons improved to 2-1 following a 45-32 win in New Orleans over the rivaled Saints. With this in mind, let’s update the season prediction.
As is often the case in recent Saints and Falcons games, Monday night was an offensive shoot-out. Matt Ryan continued his stellar play, with a 66.7% completion percentage combined with 240 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the running game, Devonta Freeman lit up the Saints defense, gaining 152 yards on the ground on just 14 carries. Freeman also led the team in receiving yards, with five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. The other talented running back, Tevin Coleman, gained 42 yards on 12 carries, but more importantly rushed for three touchdowns in goal line situations.
The defensive side of the ball left mixed feelings for Atlanta. Louisiana native Deion Jones had a pick-six to ultimately put the game out of reach while Desmond Trufant and Dwight Freeney each recorded sacks. While those three plays make nice highlights, the defense was cut up by Drew Brees most of the game, allowing 376 passing yards and 3 touchdowns.
The biggest improvement for the Falcons in this game was penalties. Atlanta was flagged 4 times for 35 yards. That is significantly better than the first two games, in which Atlanta was penalized over 70 yards in each.
First-round pick Keanu Neal made his NFL debut in Week 3, recording 3 tackles. He didn’t have a big highlight play like Jones, but he showed that he can deliver punishing hits. It’s exciting to see Neal’s development moving forward.
So where does that leave the Falcons? The offense continued to produce and effectively spread the ball around, the team’s discipline improved, young players are starting to find their groove and make an impact, but the defense was still burned by Drew Brees through simple crossing and seam routes.
Unfortunately, this game doesn’t change the season prediction for me. Yes, the Falcons beat the Saints at home, a game in which the Falcons have struggled over the last several seasons, but they did so against an extremely weak defense while their own defense was walked over.
The real test comes next week against Carolina. It will be the toughest defense they have yet face and will also be the last home game before traveling to Seattle and Denver.
There are trying times ahead, let’s see what the Dirty Birds can do.
The Atlanta Falcons will finish around 8-8 or 9-7, sitting at 2nd or 1st in the NFC South. However, if they prove themselves in the next 3 weeks, they could be contenders.