Editor's note: Archer's Take is a weekly series in which Falcons analyst Dave Archer provides insight and analysis of each Falcons game.
Quinn got the complimentary football he was looking for
Coach Dan Quinn has been preaching about complementary football and a lot of people may ask, "Well, what the hell does that mean?" I can tell that it's when one hand, washes the other hand. It means you can't stay with the run game unless the defense is getting stops. It means the pass is better because the coverage is making the quarterback hold onto the football longer. It means when the defense is getting stops, as a coach, I can do more with my game plan offensively to keep them off balance. The Falcons pass rush was tremendous and the Saints' run game was shut down. Brees was harassed throughout the day and the secondary did a really good job with tight coverage. On the other side of the ball, Atlanta was able to produce in the run game and beat them up physically, which slowed down their pass rush and created opportunities when you decide to throw it and make plays – that is complementary football.
Give the Falcons credit on making adjustments, preparing and executing
Five consecutive games, the Saints held their opponents to under 100 yards rushing. Success in the run game all started with the first play for the Falcons. You have jet sweep to Calvin Ridley, he rips off about a 20-yard play. I thought that Atlanta caught the Saints defense off guard a little bit and gave them a punch to the gut. Next thing you know, Devonta Freeman's running the football, the offensive line had got into a nice rhythm.
The offensive line was able to come off the ball and mash people. Let's face it, with pass protection you are pretty much retreating and trying to punch – keeping your opponent at bay. In the run game, it's the lineman attacking, and the Falcons were able to come off the ball, hit them in the mouth a little. At first, the Saints wanted to run an umbrella zone, which means the safeties can't support against the run – all of the support is on the perimeter. That makes them a bit vulnerable to the inside. Anytime you see a team running a Cover 2 shell or two-deep safeties, that opposing team has to be able to run the football. Against the Saints, there was a lot going right along the offensive line, tight ends, Matt Ryan getting you to the right play to make the Saints come out of that look. Then the Saints defense went single-high and brought a safety down, all of a sudden Julio makes a big play or Ridley gets a big catch and the Falcons march down the field.
Aggressive play was the key to defense's big day
I thought that the defense played on point throughout the game. The coverage in the secondary was as good as we seen all year. Yeah, there were a few fouls and a few grabs, but I would want my guys to play with their hands. They were aggressive at the line of scrimmage and we saw a lot of jamming from the secondary. Subsequently, you are in good position to make a tackle if it was a completed pass. In the run game, I thought everybody was fit properly against the run. They brought pressure on Brees and got him on the ground early and I believe the Falcons sensed blood in the water. The play from defensive line causing pressure and making plays caused the entire group too feed off of that a little bit.
When you play tight coverage like the Falcons did, it allows the defensive line to get home. The pass rush has to speed up the thought process of the quarterback and that's just taking care of one another on the field. The tight coverage and making Brees hold the football allowed the pass rush to get home, which forced Brees to some tough throws – there were a number of plays where he was inaccurate and that was due to pass rush.
Falcons frontline got home against Brees due to stunts that led to pressure
Whenever you get your captain, Big Grady, going I think people feed off of his play, for he is the Falcons' engine inside. I think the Saints just had a tough time handling the stunts from Atlanta. The Falcons had timely stunts up front with guys looping inside and outside, which caused a lot of pressure. It's strange how when you do your job with an assertive energy, they kind of plays a team can make.
Matt Ryan's recognition to scramble and pick up a well-needed first down
Ryan understands what people are trying to do to him from a scheme standpoint. They were running mainly Cover 2-man, which is two-deep safety-look with man-coverage beneath two safeties. Whenever you do that, there is usually someone not dedicated to the quarterback. Saints rushing with four, Ryan was able to break contain and was athletic enough to make some plays. I talked to Matt post game and he said, "I knew I was stiff, but I knew that I can pick up the first down for us. I have to pull it down and take off."
His recognition of coverage and understanding that if he breaks out of that pocket there would be nobody there for him.
The Falcons can take away a ton from this game. I believe this is a reinforcer to recognize who the Falcons really are as a team – and that was the challenge that Quinn laid on this team. I thought Quinn was brilliant in the final decision making with the defensive staff, moving Raheem Morris to the defensive secondary. Quinn felt like that was a guy that he could trust to go in there and coach that group up and get them prepared – Morris did that. The defense, bottom-line played with a swagger and that is something that stood out to me. One thing about the Saints, is that Drew Brees started a lot of games in the Superdome and he's never been held without an offensive touchdown – it's never happened, but you can't say that now.