The 2013 season for the Atlanta Falcons has been an absolute disaster, as the team currently sits at 2-8 and in the midst of a four-game losing streak. While a run to the playoffs look to be as likely as Matt Ryan making it through a quarter of play without getting blindsided, there can still be some positive moments for the Falcons and their fans; namely, defeating the 8-2 New Orleans Saints when the two faceoff in the Georgia Dome at 8:25 EST on Thursday night, which will be televised on NFL Network.
Defeating the New Orleans Saints is certainly not an easy task and is only complicated by the fact the Falcons defense is unbelievably awful extremely vulnerable this year, but as we have seen in sports, anything is truly possible. Atlanta’s season has been a nightmare through ten games, but to quote the famous philosopher Bluto Blutarksy, “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” Atlanta showed the ability to compete with these Saints in the first game of this season, a game the Falcons ultimately lost 23-17, and although some key players from the September 8th matchup will not be in the lineup for the Dirty Birds, who’s to say the Falcons could not produce another close game with the Saints?
In all honesty, Atlanta’s quality of football is going to have to get kicked up a notch–or ten–if they want to compete with a team that could very well represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII, especially on offense. The Falcons’ offensive line has been the root of all their problems this year, including Matt Ryan’s unsettlingly high interceptions (12 INTs, which is 2 away from his career-high) and the running game’s lack of existence (currently ranks 31st with 73 yards per game).
In an effort to figure out what the problem is, Falcons head coach Mike Smith shifted the line around a bit last week against the Buccaneers, moving center Peter Konz to right guard, Joe Hawley to center, and Garrett Reynolds to the bench. This turned out to be even worse than the situation had been before, as Konz was absolutely manhandled by Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy, who sacked Ryan three times before Konz was replaced by Reynolds. Despite the lackluster result, it is definitely a good sign to see Smith and Falcons offensive line coach Pat Hill moving guys around to try and solidify a unit that has played like the line that protected Paul “Wrecking” Crewe in The Longest Yard. The coaching staff has not announced how the line will look in tomorrow night’s game, but judging from what we saw in last Sunday’s loss, it may be best for the team to continue experimenting with different guys in different slots, excluding Konz, the team’s second round pick in 2012.
Meanwhile, the Falcons’ defense has one job against the Saints: hit Drew Brees early and often. One of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, Brees will surely carve up a Falcons’ secondary that has been a disappointment in 2013, so Atlanta needs to just admit that the former Boilermaker will beat even their best coverages and instead send defenders in after the veteran. Atlanta’s pass rush has been mediocre in 2013 (26th in the league with 21 sacks), but in order for the Falcons to have any shot at pulling the upset, Brees will have to be taken to the ground multiple times. Free agent pick-up Osi Umenyiora has done all he could to pressure opposing quarterbacks, as he currently has 6.5 sacks and a total of 20 tackles, but it will take some blitzing from the likes of Sean Weatherspoon and undrafted rookie standout Paul Worrilow to really affect Brees’ play in this one.
Preview: Thursday’s night game will unfortunately be like the majority of games the Falcons have played this season; Atlanta’s offense will be plagued by bad line play and a dominating performance from former Falcon Curtis Lofton, who wreaks havoc in his return to the Georgia Dome. Meanwhile, Drew Brees does what he normally does in any given game and winds up throwing for 344 yards and three touchdowns, including one 62 yard pass to Marques Colston that comes thanks to another bad read by safety Thomas DeCoud, whose job is in serious jeopardy. How bad does this game get? At the start of the fourth quarter, Matt Ryan is pulled in favor of backup Dominique Davis in order to keep the face of the franchise from getting killed. Such is the story of the 2013 Falcons. Final Score New Orleans Saints 38, Atlanta Falcons 14