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TALE OF THE TAPE

Tale Of The Tape: New Orleans Saints At Atlanta Falcons

New Orleans Saints
Atlanta Falcons
(credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
(credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Quarterback
Winner The Saints have been explosive this year but Drew Brees has not had to do it all by himself because he’s gotten plenty of support from his defense. Brees reads defenses at the line of scrimmage as well as any quarterback, and he should have no trouble diagnosing how to take apart the Atlanta defense with his pinpoint passes.
It has been a miserable year for the Falcons, but don’t think for a minute that Matt Ryan is not capable of having a high-level game and taking apart his archrivals. If Ryan can get adequate protection from his offensive line, he is capable of a huge day. However, when he’s forced into an early mistake, he has a hard time straightening out and preventing the errors from mounting.
Offense
Winner The Saints have not gotten a lot out of their running game this year. Pierre Thomas doesn’t often run through the defender and he will look to get out of bounds when he can. Darren Sproles has some escapability as both a runner and a receiver. Tight end Jimmy Graham is a sensational talent and the Falcons will not be able to control him.
The Falcons thought they had one of the best offensive teams in the league heading into the season, but it has not worked out that way. In addition to injuries to the receiving core, the offensive line has done a poor job. Roddy White returned to the lineup a couple of weeks ago, but he is still not at full strength. Harry Douglas is an adequate receiver but not a star.
Defense
Winner The Saints have played shockingly well on the defensive side of the ball and they have been particularly effective against the pass. Much of the credit must go to the attacking style that Rob Ryan uses, because the Saints may be the most improved defensive team in the league this season. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton is a dependable tackler.
The Falcons have the speed to match up with most strong offensive teams, but they have fallen apart this year because their defense has been torn apart by injuries and they tend to get pushed around because they are smaller than most opponents. Outside linebacker Paul Worrilow has been a bright spot because he goes from sideline to sideline to make tackles. Cornerback Desmond Trufant is an alert cover man.
Special Teams
The Saints have not been impressive with their special teams. While they do an adequate job of covering kickoffs and punts, they rarely threaten to make big plays of their own. Garrett Hartley is just average as a placekicker.
Winner The Falcons have not excelled on special teams. While they still believe Jacquizz Rodgers is capable of busting a big return, he has not done it to this point in the year. Matt Bryant remains one of the game’s most dependable placekickers.

The Winner Is

(credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Winner New Orleans Saints
3 out of 4

Very little has gone right for the Falcons this year, but if they can get off to a good start and hang in for 60 minutes, they may be able to muster the strength to outlast their division rivals. However, if they fall behind early, the Saints will likely blow out the Falcons.
-Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor

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