Week 12 Game Recap: New Orleans Saints 31, Atlanta Falcons 13
What you need to know
QB Drew Brees dissected the Atlanta secondary. He beat them with a combination of short and deep passes. Brees delivered strikes downfield to his receivers largely because Atlanta was unable to generate a pass rush. Brees was able to stand in the pocket and take his time choosing his targets.
RB Deuce McAllister continues to be the featured running back over rookie Reggie Bush. Bush entered the game on several third and long plays, but only had two carries in the game through the first three quarters. McAllister has cemented his job of being the goal line running back as the novelty of Bush is starting to wear off.
WR Devery Henderson started in place of injured rookie WR Marcus Colston. He beat both starting Atlanta cornerbacks for long gains. He torched CE DeAngelo Hall to start the game and CB Allen Rossum to end it. Henderson flashed excellent straight away speed combined with good enough hands to make a play. WR Joe Horn appears to be slipping farther and farther away from being an elite wide receiver. He and Henderson each had five targets in the game.
QB Michael Vick ran for 166 yards mostly scrambling from the pocket on failed pass plays. Vick continues to struggle with his accuracy throwing the ball and his receivers werenít much help when the ball was on target. The controversy with regard to his passing abilities will only intensify after this game.
RB Warrick Dunn was the featured ball carrier in the Falconsí offense. Dunn was hit in the backfield often and didnít find much room to run between the tackles. Rookie backup RB Jerious Norwood posted better numbers on fewer carries, but benefited from some garbage time statistics late when the game was realistically over.
The trio of Atlanta receivers (White, Lelie, and Jenkins) saw an equal distribution of passing targets in the game. Lelie and White continue to be targeted on deep routes while Jenkins works more underneath routes. All three were responsible for drops that killed Falconsí drives.
What you ought to know
Brees aired it out deep down field to WR Devery Henderson on his first pass attempt of the day for a 76 yard touchdown. Henderson beat CB DeAngelo Hall straight down the middle of the field and Brees dropped into his hands beautifully. The lack of a significant pass rush from Atlanta allowed Brees to stand tall and confident in the pocket through the first half. He got his second passing touchdown on a Hail Mary pass as time expired in the first half. At the start of the second half Brees cooled off. Consecutive three and outs and a near interception on an out pattern gave a chance for the Falcons to dig their way back into the game, but Brees finished strong. He completed all seven of his final passing attempts in the fourth quarter including a 46 yard bomb to Henderson that led to the final McAllister touchdown.
McAllister saw the majority of touches early in the game. On a play intended to go left he broke it back to the right for a 31 yard gain. McAllister broke tackles and was dragging tacklers downfield on the play. He left for only one play being replaced by rookie RB Reggie Bush, but returned to the field when the Saints had the ball inside the ten yard line. New Orleans gave the ball to McAllister on consecutive carries near the goal line resulting in a rushing touchdown. The Falcons did a solid job of adjusting and stopping the Saintsí rushing attack before halftime. McAllister was stuffed on four consecutive carries. The Saints worked the clock late in the game as they gave McAllister eight fourth quarter carries. His nine yard touchdown around left end put the final nail in the Atlanta coffin.
|RB Reggie Bush, Rush: 5 - 24 - 0, Rec: 3 - 21 - 0 (4 targets)|
Bush entered the game for one carry on a third down near the end of the Saints second drive. He picked up the first down, but was immediately replaced by starting RB Deuce McAllister as soon as the ball was inside the ten yard line. McAllister punched it in for the score three plays later. The Saints ran a special play for Bush early in the third quarter. He lined up wide to the left and ran a double move. QB Drew Brees pump faked and threw the go down the sideline, but the ball was overthrown on the play. Bush had two other nice plays late in the game with a 13 yard reception and a 12 yard run, but mostly watched as the Saints remained committed to whittling down the clock with McAllister.
Karney saw his normal distribution of check down receptions.
Henderson beat CB DeAngelo Hall down the middle of the field for a 76 yard touchdown on the first pass play of the game. Just before halftime Henderson made a nice catch. QB Drew Brees unloaded a pass down the left sideline because he was facing a heavy blitz. Henderson did a great job of coming back to the ball to make the grab while falling to the ground. The play was reviewed, but upheld. The ball may have come loose as he hit the ground, but it was too tough to tell even after watching the replay several times. With two and a half minutes left in the game the Saints were running out the clock. They caught CB Allen Rossum napping on the outside when Henderson blew by him on a third down play for a 46 yard gain. The play led to the final McAllister touchdown that put the game out of reach.
|WR Joe Horn, Rec: 3 - 61 - 0 (5 targets)|
Hornís first target came at the start of the second quarter. QB Drew Brees lobbed a fade down the right sideline for Horn. He reached up and pulled the ball in with his right hand making a spectacular grab. His left hand never touched the ball, but Horn was able to secure the ball while getting knocked to the ground by the cornerback. Horn had two second half receptions. The first was a 15 yard out on the sideline. The other was a deep 23 yard in that led to the Carney field goal. Horn didnít show any visible signs that his groin injury was previously slowing him down
Copper saw his first target at the start of the second quarter on a third and five. QB Drew Brees hit him on a seam route up the right side. Copper made a diving attempt on the play but couldnít come up with the ball. His second target was a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half. Copper timed his leap well pulling in the 48 yard touchdown pass from Brees. The ball went through the hands of multiple Falconsí defenders, but Copper was able to make the play.
Colston did not play due to his ankle injury.
Campbell started the game for the Saints. He saw a flurry of targets early in the fourth quarter making three receptions. His ten yard catch put the Saints at the 12 yard line with a first down.
Miller caught two short passes just before halftime with the Saints in a hurry up offense, but it was his final target that was worth taking notice of. He pulled in a diving 17 yard reception down the left sideline on a second and eleven play.
Conwell caught his only target in the game, but it was nullified by penalty.
There was nothing of significance to report from the New Orleans kicking game.
The Saintsí front seven did a good job of keeping RB Warrick Dunn in check. Dunn didnít have a single double digit carry in the game and was hit in the backfield often. However, they were butchered by QB Michael Vick on passing plays when he broke away from the pocket and scrambled. Vickís 166 rushing yards broke records and kept the Falcons in the game.
The Saintsí secondary benefited from playing against QB Michael Vick. They allowed receivers to get open downfield, but Vick was inaccurate and his receivers couldnít hold onto the ball. DE Will Smith led the pass rush with a pair of sacks (and also forced a fumble), but ended up leaving the game with an injury on the second play.
|QB Michael Vick, Pass: 9 - 24 - 84 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 12 - 166 - 0|
Vick fumbled on his second carry in the game. He rolled out to his right on the play and took off when he saw nobody open downfield. He was holding the ball in one hand away from his body as it was knocked away by a defender. He was lucky that one of his linemen happened to be nearby and fell on the ball. On similar plays Vick broke from the pocket around left end and scrambled 51 yards putting the Falcons inside the 10 yard line, and 29 yards getting them out of poor field position. Vick set the NFL record for rushing yards in a half by a quarterback, but three potential scoring drives bogged down when Vick was unable to move the ball with his arm. He finally got the Atlanta offense rolling when he hit a wide open TE Alge Crumpler on a deep crossing route that led to the Dunn touchdown run. Vick certainly had problems with his accuracy through the game, but his receivers had more blatant drops (four) than receptions (three) at the start of the fourth quarter. However, even without the drops Vick would have still only completed 50% of his passes.
Dunn continues to be the grind it out running back between the tackles. He ran hard and pushed the pile gaining tough yards. The Falcons gave Dunn three carries inside the five yard line including a fourth down carry that got the Falcons into the end zone. Playing from behind limited Dunnís touches in the second half.
Norwood entered the game just before halftime. His 13 yard run around right end put Atlanta inside the ten yard line. He stayed in the game and got two more carries near the goal line, but the Falcons couldnít punch it in. Norwood saw more touches through the third quarter. Atlanta ran a special play for him when they split him out wide left. It was supposed to be a wide receiver screen, but New Orleans read the play well and stuffed him for a loss. However, he did follow that play up with a very nice 12 yard inside run breaking a tackle and showing good balance.
Griffith was largely a non-factor in Atlanta game plan other than his two short check-down receptions. His nine yard carry came late in the game in garbage time.
Jenkins pulled in two very short passes at the line of scrimmage, but wasnít able to do much with either by breaking a tackle or making a defender miss. QB Michael Vick missed him badly when he was able to gain separation, but he also dropped a deep cross that hit him in the hands late in the game.
Whiteís first target came at the end of the opening Falcon drive. On a third and five White was matched up in single coverage. He ran a go route down the left sideline and QB Michael Vick lobbed the ball deep in his direction. White made a nice adjustment coming in back to the ball in the end zone, but couldnít make the play even though it hit him in the hands. White did catch the first ball by a receiver downfield on a third and long play, but it was short of the first down marker. At the start of the fourth quarter he ran a long route down the left sideline and Vick under threw the pass. White again made the adjustment coming back to the pass, but turned his head looking for the defender as the ball bounced off his hands.
QB Michael Vick lobbed a deep ball up high for Lelie down the left sideline early in the game. Lelie got tangled up with the defensive back while hand-fighting and fell to the ground. He stood up looking for the defensive interference flag, but was denied because he was initiating most of the contact. Lelie dropped an easy reception at the start of the fourth quarter on a ball that his hit him in the hands.
Crumplerís lone early target in the game wasnít really a target. QB Michael Vick was looking towards Crumpler in the back corner of the end zone, but he was well covered on the play. Vick threw the ball away deep out of the end zone in Crumplerís direction. Crumpler finally got involved in the Atlanta offense early in the third quarter when he caught a deep 43 yard cross from Vick that led to the Dunn touchdown. He saw another end zone target after the long play, but Vick overthrew the pass and Crumpler didnít have a chance to make a play on the ball.
Anderson missed his first attempt in the game wide left.
The Falconsí defensive line was getting blown off the ball early in the game giving up big gains to the running back duo of McAllister and Bush. However, they shored up their gaps and held McAllister to consecutive carries of 0, 0, 2, and 0 before halftime to get the Saints offense off the field. This trend continued in the second half. They were able to keep New Orleans in longer third down situations making it tough to convert throughout the third quarter forcing four consecutive punts.
CB DeAngelo Hall got beat straight down the center of the field by WR Devery Henderson on the first pass play of the game. Saints receivers appeared to be running free through the secondary for most of the first half, and they finished it the same way they started it. WR Terrance Copper pulled in a Hail Mary on the final play of the half. They ball appeared to go through the hands of two Falconsí defensive backs before Copper pulled it in. The pass rush was virtually nonexistent until LB Keith Brooking sacked Brees late in the third quarter forcing a quick three and out. They got to Brees again on the following drive, but a facemask penalty by Brooking negated the play and kept a Saintsí drive alive. The return of heralded DE John Abraham was a let down for Falcon fans. Abraham didnít provide any pressure on Brees or even register a tackle in the game. CB Allen Rossum finished the game the same way that Hall started it. He allowed Henderson to get open deep when he was expecting the Saints to try and run out the clock. Instead it set up the final McAlister touchdown that ended the game.