New Orleans coach Sean Payton held a conference call with the Atlanta media on Wednesday.
The Saints (7-2) are set to host the Falcons (3-6) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Here’s what Payton had to say:
Q: What do you see when you look at the Falcons’ offensive attack?
A: “Well listen, I would say this, it’s been impressive. There are a number of targets that give you concern in the receiving group and the running game. I think Matt (Ryan) is playing extremely well and their front is playing well. They’ve been on schedule, especially when you look at the last month and a half of film, relative to their red zone production, relative to their third down numbers. They present a lot of challenges. It’s a division game and yet each year there are nuances within each game. I believe last year we had the same one game then a different opponent then another game back-to-back, so I think this last month, month and half of football has been real impressive when you watch them and their balance.”
Q: Defensively, is Grady Jarrett the player who jumps out at you?
A: “I would agree, certainly Grady has been a huge challenge for us and for everyone else. He plays with such good energy. He’s a technician. He’s a fantastic athlete who can bend well. We are familiar with (former Saints defensive tackle) Tyeler (Davison).”
Q: Discuss the blitzing that the Falcons are doing?
A: “I think they’ve done a really good job of mixing things up. You are seeing both linebackers involved in the pressure package. You are seeing safety pressures now with Keanu (Neal) and Ricardo (Allen). There are a lot of things now, not just on third down, but in the sub packages that really force you to walk through reps and a lot of protection snaps. You’ve got to go through each and every one of them.”
Q: Do you see anything from the outside from the 0-5 Falcons team to a team that’s won three of their last four?
A: “Well, look, anytime there is a big change like that, there is renewed energy. Cleary, when you look at the early part of the schedule, so many of those games that come down to a play, maybe two plays each. With the Detroit game, they could very easily be 4-0 since the change. That’s that nature of our league. They are playing fast. They are playing aggressive and with confidence. You feel that on the film.”
Q: How has (defensive back) Chauncey Gardner-Johnson been playing for the Saints?
A: “He’s one of those guys who’s pretty smart. He’s got good instincts and change of direction. He’s a physical player. He was involved more in last week’s pressure package than probably up until this point in the season. So, he had a lot of production. I think he’s extremely competitive and those are traits that obviously we value.”
Q: Is Deonte Harris a good deep threat for quarterback Jameis Winston?
A: “He’s extremely bright on the football field. He’s got good savvy. He certainly helped change the field position for us as a returner. Then we try to utilize his skill-set within the framework of our offense.”
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 Chargers at 4:25 p.m., Dec. 13
The Bow Tie Chronicles Podcasts:
For more content about the Atlanta Falcons
Follow me on Twitter @DorlandoAJC
On Facebook at Atlanta Falcons News Now
Atlanta Falcons coverage on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution