This Monday night should be a tough game for the Atlanta Falcons as they face their division foe, the New Orleans Saints. The Saints offense is number one in the NFL in points scored and total yards per game andis the best that I have seen since the New England Patriots of 2007. The wide receiving core, led by Marques Colston, should have a field day against a depleted Falcons secondary as Drew Brees is reading defenses like a machine. The Saints undefeated start has come against teams outside of the NFC South and if they win this game, this should place them in the driver’s seat to win the division and play for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If you look at the rest of the division, the Buccaneers and Panthers will be battling it out for 3rd and 4th place. This would be the 8th time in 8 years that the previous NFC South winner would miss the playoffs the next season.
Sean Payton joined WWL in New Orleans to talk about whether the forced fumble by Roman Harper was the turning point in the Dolphins game, the sacks given up against the Dolphins and whether it was due to their defensive scheme or them winning one-on-one battles, and the game vs. Falcons this week and the challenges they pose.
Whether the forced fumble by Roman Harper was the turning point in the Dolphins game:
“Well I think so because at that point you are looking at defending another potential field goal or scoring opportunity for Miamiand that gave us a little life. We were able to get within scoring distance and offensively Colston makes a play and it gets reviewed. Long story short here, it is a swing. It is a turnover that leads to points anda touchdown with Brees quarterback sneak as the end of the (first) half finishes.”
On the sacks given up against the Dolphins and whether it was due to their defensive scheme or them winning one-on-one battles:
“Well I think this. We had the right fits. Guys knew who they were blocking. I said this after the game: You got to credit Miami for winning some of those battles. The second thing that I felt hurt us a little bit was that we were in the longer yardage situations. Some of those sacks were taking place in 3rd and 13, 3rd and 12, and you become so much one-dimensional. One of the things that I had to look at closely is, the first half and making sure that we were able to get some balance in the 2nd half. We wanted to go into the game throwing the ball and looking back at it I thought that we ran the ball real well in that 2ndhalf. That helped take the pressure off of those guys, both the offensive line and the running backs and in the protection. Well I think it was probably the poorest half that we have had this season in regards to protecting Drew Brees and I think there is a number of things we can do for that.”
On how he keeps the players focus when they are down big like they were in the Dolphins game:
“Well I think this; I think first off and I credit the players…I think we have got real good leadership on this team and resolve. I think although we hadn’t played from a deficit prior to that game, I think certainly everyone understands that when you go through the course of a full season like we do, you are going to have to and we are going to have to in the future to come back and change momentum. It was good to see for the first time because it was certainly a test for us. At halftime there was a feeling of obviously we hadn’t played our best half of football. There was kind of a confident feeling that if we were able to do that in the second half, that we could change how this game was going and I think it starts with the players.”
On the game vs. Falcons this week and the challenges they pose:
“I think that number 1, you referenced the ’06. So many things have changed since then. When you look at the opponent then it is a team that has a new head coach, a new quarterback, a lot of new key pieces on offense and defense. They have really done a great job of turning the program around. Mike Smith and his staff long with their players deserve a ton of credit. Last year, we split with them. We got a ton of respect for what they do and we are glad that we are coming home and playing a primetime game in front of our fans. This is a great place and great advantage for us to play in environment like this especially on a Monday night game. We think the city will be fired up and we need to be ready because we are playing a real good team.”