The Atlanta Falcons. The Dirty Birds. It is THE rivalry when you ask New Orleans Saints fans what team they do not want their Black and Gold to lose to and beat. Put in type of seasons the two teams have had and it adds a little more spice.
“I think they’re going to come out with a little bit of fire because they’re 8-0 and they’re not trying to get knocked off,” says Saints Roman Harper. “They know they’re coming into our dome and they have not had a lot of success here in this whole rivalry thing as you want to call it.”
The Falcons are doing the things it takes to win games such as only losing one fumble all season long and being one of the least penalized teams in the league. “It’s very impressive when you look at them statistically and all the measures that you say are championship football,” says Saints quarterback Drew Brees. “They’re tied for the second-fewest turnovers in the league and (tied for) fourth most on defense. That’s the stat. They’ve done a great job of taking care of it and taking it away on defense. They are the least penalized team in the NFL. Those two stats tell you a lot about a team’s discipline.”
Injuries could always prove to be a factor in games as the Saints will be without four players. Running back Darren Sproles has a broken hand. Receiver Courtney Roby has an injured shoulder. Defensive end Junior Galette suffered a sprain ankle against the Eagles and right tackle Zach Strief injured his groin muscle in Philly game.
Strief’s injury could be to an issue as his replacement Charles Brown will have to be able to handle the Falcons pass rush and in particular do battle with Atlanta defensive end John Abraham. “They move him around anyway, so I’m sure they’ll have a plan where he continues to do what he’s always done, which is wreak havoc if you allow it,” Brees says of Abraham. “He’s one of the elite pass rushers in this league, (and) still is after his 13th year. It’s pretty impressive.” Atlanta’s defense has sacked opposing quarterbacks 20 times this season.
As for Brown the Saints signal caller feels he won’t have to worry about the right side of the offensive line. “I have a lot of confidence in Charles Brown and he’s done this before,” Brees says. “He came in and started four games last year. He’s played enough times before, whether it’s coming in finishing a game, playing some tight end or (as a) blocking end at times. Now that he’s a full-time tackle at least in the short term, I’m excited for him and this opportunity for him.”
Atlanta is on cloud nine right now playing the” we want respect” game while the Saints know that giving the right amount of respect this week is wise. “It doesn’t matter about the records, you throw them out,” says Harper. “We know that they are the best team in the NFL right now and you got to respect that. They’ve won all of their games and they’ve done it very just openly, blatantly, just whooped teams. We got to go out here and play our game and be focused and come out here with a sense of emotion. Mentally, physically we got to really be into this game and try and go get it.”
The Saints rushed for 140 yards last week in the win against the Eagles and the Falcons run defense is 25th in the league but 13th overall in stopping the pass. Running back Chris Ivory lit a fire in the Saints running game last week and got the fans riled up. I think he can do the same this week if the Saints commit to the run the way they did last week.
Defensively the Saints have some math-up concerns no doubt. Atlanta receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White have been playing well this season and the Saints secondary will have to keep tabs on them. Tight end Tony Gonzales is a match-up concern for the Saints linebacker but you hope that Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton remembers what it was like to guard him at Falcons practice.
I think both teams come out fired up and play a black and blue game where players will need ice baths on Monday to help with the soreness. I think this will be a tough game for the Saints to win but they can do it. They’ve won 3 of 4 and if they stay with the run they offense will continue to click. I see the Saints winning it in a close one, 26-24.