Falcons preparing for Saints’ Winston, Hill

The Falcons, coming off their bye week, are getting ready for Saints’ quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston.

Drew Brees, the Saints’ future Hall of Fame quarterback, suffered fractured ribs, according to multiple reports, and did not play in the second half of Sunday’s 27-13 victory over the 49ers on Sunday. Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in 2015 now in his first season in New Orleans, and Hill, a running/gadget play quarterback, finished the game as the Saints improved to 7-2.

The Falcons (3-6) are set to face the Saints (7-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

“Just getting ready for both quarterbacks, getting things installed and putting all of our plan together,” Falcons linebacker Deion Jones said. “It should be interesting planning this week for two guys, so we’ll see.”

New Orleans coach Sean Payton initially wouldn’t address Brees’ injury in his snarky conference call with the Louisiana media on Monday.

“He took a significant hit yesterday in that game,” Payton said.

He later added that he’ll name the starter later in the week.

Brees, who’s been with the Saints since 2006, has a 19-10 record overall against the Falcons. He had one loss with the Chargers back in 2004.

With Brees at the controls, the Saints have swept the series seven times over 14 seasons. The teams have split the series five times and the Falcons swept the Saints twice in 2014 and 2016.

Last season, the teams split as the Falcons won 26-9 in New Orleans and the Saints prevailed 26-18 in Atlanta.

In the 29 games against the Falcons, Brees has completed 772 of 1,129 passes (68.4%) for 8,695 yards, 54 touchdowns and 27 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.1.

Historically, the Falcons have had trouble getting their pass rush to Brees. Last season, the Falcons had their best outing against Brees when he was sacked six times. They had five sacks against in him back in 2014. In all of the 27 other games, Brees was sacked two times or less.

There have been eight games when the Falcons were not able to sack Brees, including last season’s second game.

Winston, 26, won the Heisman Trophy as a redshirt freshman and was drafted first overall by Tampa Bay in 2015. Winston was 4-5 against the Falcons, completing 190 of 288 passes (65%) for 2,499 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also had a 109.1 passer rating.

The Falcons have not sacked Winston much, either. In the nine games, he hasn’t been sacked more than twice and the Falcons did not sack him in two games.

However, Winston has lost five of his last six meetings with the Falcons, including last season’s 28-22 overtime victory when he tossed a walk-off pick-six to Jones.

Hill, who will also line up at running back, wide receiver and tight end, has rushed 34 times for 186 yards and a touchdown. He’s caught six passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. He’s only thrown four passes this season.

Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris believes that Payton and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael will have Winston and Hill ready to play.

“We’ve seen them do it last year with Teddy Bridgewater,” Morris said. “Now, they will be challenged with the same thing this year. We know they are going to come ready to play. Everybody probably felt the same way when they went 5-0 with Teddy. They are not going to sneak up on anybody. We’ll be ready.”

Winston is trying to revive his once-promising NFL career.

“He’s had a significant amount of time to be with those guys, we are talking 10 weeks with those guys,” Morris said. “Sitting behind Drew, who is arguably one of the best quarterbacks to play our game, and being in that same quarterback room with all those guys, Taysom Hill, himself and Drew Brees. So, he’s got to be better. You can’t help but get better when you’re around those type of people.”

Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was Winston’s offensive coordinator (2015) and head coach (2016-'18) in Tampa Bay.

“I think Jameis is an excellent quarterback,” Koetter said. “He definitely has a big arm. Hard guy to sack. I know that he’s anxious to prove himself. We’ll have to see how the week goes, the word I heard earlier today is that Drew Brees' injuries are fairly significant. We’ll just have to see how that plays out.”

Winston was brought in to backup Brees.

“That’s why they brought Jameis there,” Koetter said. “They lost Teddy Bridgewater. He’s starting for Carolina. Every team that doesn’t want to have to lose their starter, especially a guy of his caliber of Brees' caliber. Jameis, that’s why they brought him there, he has got a lot of experience. He knows how to throw the ball down the field. I’m sure he’s anxious to get his opportunity.”

The Falcons will likely be without defensive end Dante Fowler, who went on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday.

“It’s the next guy up, make sure that guy is ready,” Jones said. “Also, we might have some things in the scheme that might get that same intensity. But we definitely wish Tay was with us. He was a good addition to our edge. We just have to take care of him for right now.”

Credit: AJC

Falcons middle linebacker Deion Jones discusses preparing for Drew Brees or Jameis Winston and the improving play of the defense.

Falcons' next four games

Falcons at Saints at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22

Raiders at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29

Saints at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6

Falcons at Los Angeles Chargers at 4:25 p.m., Dec. 13

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