First Quarter: Falcons Making Big Plays

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Wow, how's that for some scheming? For all of those who question the Falcons' personnel in the secondary, the Falcons coaches do a great job of finding ways to give up a lot of yards (they rank 25th in the NFL) but not a lot of points (they rank eighth) and to hide whatever weakness could be there. Maybe they learned a few lessons last week when they gave up 299 passing yards against Dallas.

That delayed blitz on first-and-5 by Thomas DeCoud -- who is starting to have a Pro-Bowl caliber year -- to force the fumble on Drew Brees was the kind of play that helps win games. It was a great play by DeCoud and then Kroy Biermann to pick up the fumble and return it 4 yards for the touchdown. Biermann almost looked surprised at what happened before him.

With the Falcons up by 14-7 at the end of the quarter, this is not looking like a super human Saints team that scores at will. The Saints' offense looks impressive and the Falcons will have a difficulty containing it throughout the game, but I'd imagine that the defensive score will help to give the Falcons' defense some important confidence.

Offensively, the Falcons seem to have this opening drive thing down. Now, let's see if they can handle the rest of the game better than they did last week against Dallas. Once again, the Falcons could not have asked for a better start, especially from Michael Turner. He had 38 yards on four carries and a touchdown on that drive -- easily his best start, if not drive, of the season.

Lots of praise on the broadcast from ESPN analyst Jon Gruden for Falcons' Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey on that drive. He and fellow analyst Ron Jaworski pointed out how the Falcons used wide receiver Brian Finneran, at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, and one of the team's smarter players who surely has a mastery of all of the protections and blocking schemes, in the backfield on several plays to keep quarterback Matt Ryan safe or to block on runs. On the touchdown, the broadcast crew pointed out that it was a three tight-end formation. New England did that to the Falcons back in Week 3. Maybe the Falcons learned something -- a blueprint they could do well to emulate tonight.

While the Falcons' defense came up big on the second drive, it did not on the first one. Last Monday Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith mentioned how the team needed to improve upon its tackling. Guess what happened on the touchdown play of [New Orleans](http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=29.9647222222,-90.0705555556&spn=0.1,0.1&q=29.9647222222,-90.0705555556 (New Orleans)&t=h "New Orleans")' first drive? Chevis Jackson missed a tackle in the backfield and then John Abraham also missed one on Pierre Thomas, who ran 23 yards for a score. One of the broadcasters, it sounded like Jaworski, said, "Chevis Jackson must make a tackle and it's a one-yard gain." The touchdown was the second third-down conversion for New Orleans on the drive.

A few other points:

Jaworski pointed out that the Falcons use a two-tight end formation the most in the NFL (44 percent) *

The Falcons have used an 8-man protection *

Great punt by Michael Koenen, forcing a fair catch at the Saints' 9. That set up the defensive score. *

Looks like Tye Hill is playing a lot at the left corner in place of Brent Grimes. *


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