On Sunday, Sept. 10, The Atlanta Falcons flew into the Superdome with a 1 and 7 record. If that isn’t shameful enough, they may have the weakest strength of schedule throughout the NFL preceding Sunday. Their losses this year include the Jets (2-7), Broncos (3-6), Dolphins (2-7), Redskins (1-8), and Cardinals (3-6). Pathetic, right? In the days preceding Sunday’s game, the Falcons switched up their coaching staff as an effort to salvage their sinking ship. Since making the Superbowl in 2016, the Falcons have gradually declined to go 10-6 in 2017, 7-9 in 2018, and then falling off a cliff, to 2-7 through 9 games this season. So what in the heavens changed leading into Sunday?
“We’ve made the adjustments and we’re ready to get rocking,” Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn told a reporter just days before the Saints game. Coach Quinn was referencing the coaching adjustments he made during the week. Three coaches had their assignments changed: Raheem Morris went from being the wide receiver’s coach to an assistant defensive back coach and assistant defensive passing coordinator;
Dave Brock moved from running backs coach to wide receiver’s coach, and Bernie Parmalee moved from an offensive assistant to running backs coach. It was that easy?
The Falcons were coming off a close loss without their starting quarterback, Matt Ryan, to the Seahawks, a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The final score of that game would be 27 to 20, but 24 of the Seahawks’ 27 points came in the first half. The Falcons defense stepped up big for the second half, holding them to just three points. Since that first half, they have given up just 12 points to the two most high-powered offenses in the NFL.
Due to the Saints’ Alvin Kamara playing in just his first game back since his ankle injury, Sean Payton wanted to stay in the air with his future hall of fame quarterback, Drew Brees, by passing 51 times and rushing the ball just 11. The Saints have averaged 25 rushing attempts per game in 2019. Just because Kamara is hindered, the game plan seemingly took a complete 180. There was little to show for this offensive game plan outside of Michael Thomas, who hauled in 13 of 14 passes for 152 yards. Even with the attention Atlanta’s defense gave Thomas, the other receivers were no shows. Tre’Quan Smith, Ted Ginn Jr. (three dropped balls), Krishawn Hogan, and Deonte Harris combined for 1 catch, proving that there is no receiver to compliment Thomas. Whether it was their inability to get open or catch the ball, there is little reason why we shouldn’t find new pieces at the receiver position.
The two most pivotal points in the game were both in Atlanta’s favor. With five minutes left in the first quarter, Alvin Kamara tripped over himself near the end zone with no Falcon in position to tackle him if he was thrown the ball. Soon after, Falcons quarterback, Matt Ryan ran for a first down on 4th and 4, a play on a drive that would culminate into a touchdown.
It was ugly on all sides for the Saints. The offense (6), defense (5), and special teams (1) combined for a dozen penalties. Despite multiple holding penalties from the offensive line, Drew was sacked 6 times, tied for most in his 19-year career. On special teams, J.T. Gray ran into Atlanta’s punter, giving them a free first down. But just two weeks from now, the team gets another shot at Atlanta. We travel to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, for a prime-time, Thanksgiving evening game, November 28th. From now until that day, look for the Saints to possibly make a move at the receiver position.