Coming off of the bye week and sporting a 1-7 record, the Falcons rolled up to the Superdome and smacked the Saints around. The Falcons surprisingly dominated the Saints on their way to a 26-9 victory.
It marked the first time that the Saints didn’t score a touchdown at home in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era.
The Saints beat the Falcons 31-17 last season on Thanksgiving night in New Orleans.
"As I recall, it wasn’t too long ago obviously, they got after us a little bit on the pass rush,” Brees said Sunday. “We weren’t very balanced offensively. We didn’t run the ball that many times and we didn’t run as effectively as I know we can.”
The Saints and Falcons have spirited battles. The fact that the Saints are competing for playoff seeding and the Falcons are essentially playing only for pride won’t matter much.
“That’s what is fun about the division games,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “They are teams that are going to go battle for it and go. Offensively, everything starts with Drew and his accuracy.”
The Falcons were able to build a lead in the previous meeting, which helped to make the Saints one-dimensional.
“I think anytime we take the field, regardless of who the opponent is, we want to be balanced,” Brees said. “We want to be efficient. We want to convert third downs, make big plays when we have the opportunity. Score points and win games.”
The Saints’ offense flows through Brees’ passes to wide receiver Michael Thomas. He had 13 receptions for 152 yards in the last meeting.
“The matchup with them starts with Michael Thomas and goes through the running backs and into the tight ends,” Quinn said. “For a long time that’s been a big part of their offense.”
After having a tough time with Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin, the Falcons will attempt to mix their coverages against Thomas.
“He’s got ridiculously good change of direction,” Quinn said. “He can put his foot in the ground, stop and that can be a comeback (route). It can get an outside route and he knows how to beat somebody’s leverage.
“Then the catching radius that he has. They know exactly where to put the ball. With that kind of accuracy. ... He’s really aggressive when there is a 50-50 ball. He’s at the top of his game for sure.”
Thomas has 104 catches for 1,242 yards and six touchdowns.
Running backs Latavius Murray and Alvin Kamara, who played at Norcross High, combined for 118 yards rushing on 18 carries against the Panthers. Kamara had a 26-yard touchdown run.
The Saints’ defense ranks 10th in yards allowed at 321.3 per game, third against rush at 88.3 yards per game and 14th in passing yards allowed at 232.7 per game.
The defense wants to show that the 143 yards the Falcons amassed was an aberration.
“On the defensive side, they’ve done an excellent job in the run game,” Quinn said. “The linebackers, (Demario) Davis has the run-and-hit factor. He’s taken his game to another space.”
Saints coach Sean Payton expects his run defense to show up.
“I think they ran it well,” Payton said. “Time of possession was in their favor. The third-down numbers were in their favor. Every key component to winning games.
“The only thing that tilted in our favor was that we had one turnover and takeaway and still lost the game. Atlanta did so many things well in that game, and we didn’t or we didn’t do them well enough.”
The Falcons exploited the Saints’ offensive line in the previous meeting. The Saints are hoping that tackle Terron Armstead (ankle) and that guard/center Will Clapp (back) are available.
“I think we’re going to be all right,” Payton said. “Armstead is quickly trying to rehab. Clapp will be ready to go.”
The secondary could receive a boost from the return of cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who missed the last game with a hamstring injury.
The Falcons didn’t have any smack talk for the Saints, unlike in the Roddy White era.
“I am not getting involved in that, I never have,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said.
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