REPORT CARD: Falcons earned high marks for drubbing Saints

NEW ORLEANS -- The Falcons' offense blew the game open by scoring touchdowns on five consecutive drives on their way to a 45-32 victory on Monday night at the Superdome.

The defense was leaking yardage, but made enough plays to help the offense win the shootout at the Superdome on Monday.

“I thought our running backs were awesome,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. “Both those guys – Tevin (Coleman) and Devonta (Freeman) – have been really consistent players for us. It was fun to be a part of that. I thought our offensive line did a great job establishing the line of scrimmage, both in the running game and the passing game.”

The Falcons steamrolled the Saints into the ground and didn’t even need All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones.

Here are the grades:

Game balls: Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Coleman rushed for three touchdowns and Freeman scored on a receiving touchdown. Freeman rushed 12 times for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman rushed 12 times for 42 yards and caught three passes for 47 yards. That's 296 total yards.

Quarterbacks, A. Ryan completed 20 of 30 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. He finished 113.2. Ryan completed passes to eight different receivers. He claimed to slip on his block on Nick Fairley.

Running backs, A.  (See above). Freeman had a nice stiff-arm on Saints cornerback Sterling Moore.

Wide receivers/tight ends, B-plus. All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones finished with one catch for 16 yards. He was targeted seven times. Mohamed Sanu left the game with a shoulder injury. He had three catches for 31 yards. Justin Hardy scored on a shovel pass. Tight end Jacob Tamme had three catches for 31 yards.

Offensive line, A-minus. The offensive line opened up the holes for Freeman and Coleman. The Falcons averaged 7 yards per carry. There were two sacks and four quarterback hits.

Defensive line, C.  The Saints rushed for 115 yards and averaged 5 yards per carry. Defensive end Dwight Freeney recorded the first “real” sack of the season by a defensive linemen.  Vic Beasley had one against the Raiders where he chased the quarterback out of bounds. Beasley and Freeney had a quarterback hit each. Tyson Jackson and Derrick Shelby each deflected a pass.

Linebackers, C-plus: Sean Weatherspoon admitted that the defense gave up too many yards and points to the Saints. But Deion Jones’ 90-yard interception return helped the defense feel like it contributed to the victory. Weatherspoon led the Falcons in tackles with 10 and had a tackle for loss. Jones had nine tackles. Philip Wheeler added a quarterback hit.

Defensive backs, C. Desmond Trufant had a spectacular game as he held Saints speedster Brandin Cooks to two catches on eight targets. He also had a sack off a cornerback blitz. But the Falcons gave up 376 yards passing. Nickel back Brian Poole was active and his tipped ball that led to Jones’ interception return for a touchdown. Rookie safety Keanu Neal made his debut and finished with four tackles while playing in the nickel defense. “You got to get the jitters out of the way,” Neal said. “Making that first play was good. I was able to play my ball the rest of the game.” Neal was glad that the Falcons decided to ease him back into the defense. “They didn’t want to throw me out into the fire and have me play the whole game,” Neal said. “So, I played a little bit of nickel. In the base package, they kept Ishmael in. But our rotation was good. It worked out well for us.” Neal said his surgically repaired right knee held up well. “My knee felt good, really good,” Neal said. “At first, I just had to get used to the turf and everything. Overall, it was a good day for it.”

Special teams, A.  It was a heads-up play by gunner LaRoy Reynolds in punt coverage to pounce on the live ball as the Saints were bumbling about. The play put the offense back in business at the 11-yard line. Eric Weems had another find day returning the ball, which included a 42-yard kickoff return. Punter Matt Bosher averaged 45 yards on two punts and had eight touchbacks on his kickoffs.

Coaching, A-minus. The aggressive style of coaching paid off offensively with head coach Dan Quinn going for two fourth downs on the plus-side of the 50. The defense is still finding its way, but came up with a big interception return. The special teams were solid, too. Quinn’s confidence in the offense is growing. The Falcons had a season-low four penalties for 35 yards.

NEXT UP: The Falcons (2-1) host the Carolina Panthers (1-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

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Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 296 yards and four touchdowns in the Falcons 45-32 win over the Saints. The AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter and Greg Picker break down the victory.

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.