NFL Wire News

3 things we learned about the Falcons


The Sports Xchange

NEW ORLEANS — When the New Orleans Saints traded All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle in the offseason, no one really knew who might emerge as quarterback Drew Brees’ go-to target, especially in the red zone.

On Thursday night, at least, Brees finally discovered who his go-to guy was — 12-year NFL veteran Benjamin Watson, a quiet, steady force during the Saints’ challenging early-season struggles.

Watson caught 10 passes for a career-high 127 yards, including a two-yard touchdown on a fourth-down gamble late in the third quarter, and the Saints (2-4) shut down the high-octane Atlanta Falcons offense for a 31-21 victory.

The Falcons were previously undefeated in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“He’s my guy,” Brees said of Watson. “He’s probably one of the greatest teammates you could ever ask for. He’s a phenomenal workers. He’s a great leader. He’s everything you’d want in a teammate.”

The Saints held the Atlanta offense 11 points under its average, forced two red-zone fumbles to take potential points off the board and blocked a punt for a touchdown, a 4-yard block and scoop by linebacker Michael Mauti that gave New Orleans a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter.

The Saints’ normally anemic pass rush got to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan five times, forcing three fumbles. Atlanta entered the game as one of the NFL’s best with a plus-5 takeaway-turnover margin.

New Orleans running back Mark Ingram scored twice on runs of 2 and 1 yards, and the Saints rolled up 207 yards of total offense and 17 points in the second half.

“We needed a win like this against a very good opponent,” Brees said. “The team played great tonight in all three phases. I can’t say enough about our defense. They did a phenomenal job. They got a bunch of takeaways, which is big time.”

What we learned about the Falcons:

1. The Falcons were the first team in NFL history to start the season 5-0 despite trailing in the fourth quarter in four of those five games. However, their slow starts finally caught up with them, in part because of three turnovers, two of them coming in the red zone.

“It’s just ball security,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “I thought we moved the ball really efficiently the entire night. We had a couple of scoring chances where we ended up turning the football over. And when you do that, in this building, going up against this team, it’s extremely difficult to overcome that.”

2. Despite the Saints’ injury-plagued offensive line, the Falcons could not put much pressure on Drew Brees, who was sacked only once for an 8-yard loss. The Falcons entered the game with just six sacks in five games, which ranked 28th in the NFL. Even when Brees was pressured, he made great plays with his feet, scooping the ball once to Mark Ingram, turning a sack into a 7-yard gain.

3. Wide receiver Roddy White has been missing in action this season, but he finally broke through with a 7-yard touchdown catch behind cornerback Brandon Browner. That score snapped White’s seven-game scoreless drought. However, White was upset with the offense’s sloppiness.

“We’ve got to play better than that,” White said. “I felt like we did a heck of a job the first three games taking care of the ball. But in these last two games, we haven’t. We left the defense out there too long tonight. We had way too many three-and-outs.”


–RB Devonta Freeman produced 100 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and added 56 yards and a touchdown on eight catches, showcasing his north-south ability. He leads the NFL with nine rushing TDs and 10 overall touchdowns.

–QB Matt Ryan completed 30 of 44 passes for 295 yards with two scoring passes and no interceptions, but he was sacked five times for 32 yards in losses and was pushed off his mark several other times in the second half. The first-half fumble he lost was not his fault, however, because C James Stones scraped his own leg with the shotgun snap.

–LB Paul Worrilow appeared to be suckered on the Saints’ fourth-and-goal gamble at the 2-yard line late in the third quarter. New Orleans QB Drew Brees faked a handoff to RB Mark Ingram, and Worrilow sucked in to stop the run, leaving TE Benjamin Watson wide open to haul in a key touchdown pass. S William Moore was seen jawing at Worrilow after the mental mistake.

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