Falcons fail to pressure Brees

The Georgia Dome turf aside, Drew Brees headed back to New Orleans with a clean uniform. The Falcons failed for most of Sunday’s 26-23 overtime loss to pressure the Saints quarterback.

The defensive lapses allowed Brees plenty of time to find open receivers. He completed 30-of-43 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns. The All-Pro had a 106.9 quarterback rating.

“We did not get pressure,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “They blocked up some of our blitzes with some of their formations that they had, we weren’t able to get pressure. They had a very good game plan in terms of trying to neutralize the pressure that we would put on them.”

The Falcons did not register a sack of Brees, after amassing 11 in the previous four games. To make matters worse, the Falcons finished with just two hits on Brees.

“We were kind of not getting a lot of pressure in the beginning, but I think we stepped up and made some good plays at the end,” said defensive end John Abraham, who had one of the hits.

Some Falcons players pointed to a fourth-quarter stand as a sign of a stiffening defense. The Falcons unsuccessfully tried an on-side kick after a pulling to within three points at 23-20 on a Tony Gonzalez touchdown catch. On their ensuing drive, Falcons end Ray Edwards stopped Mark Ingram for a 4-yard loss on second-and-one. On the next play, Abraham pressured Brees into an incomplete pass. The stops forced the Saints into a John Kasay 45-yard field goal that sailed through the uprights. However, a holding penalty on Jimmy Graham nullified the kick and the Saints had to punt. The Falcons followed with a 13-play, 85-yard drive that resulted in the game-tying field goal.

“You have to pick and choose when to go after a guy like that,” linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said. “You want to move him off the spot. At the end, I feel like we did a darn good job getting him off the spot and getting the ball back to our offense.”

It took the Saints offense some time to get moving. However, their early-game woes were self-inflicted. Graham dropped two third-down passes, which would have been good for first downs, on back-to-back drives in the first quarter.

“We didn’t really get [Brees] down the way we wanted to,” middle linebacker Curtis Lofton said. “… We knew he is a very special player and he’s going to get the ball out of his hands and get it to his receivers. He gets the ball out quick. You can’t send pressure when he gets the ball out that quick.”