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Keys to Victory: Falcons vs. Saints

The ball

Atlanta's regard for the football has been an emphasis all year as this is one of the areas the Falcons game is predicated on.

Both the Falcons and Saints have shown a regard for the football defensively, each creating 21 takeaways.

The Falcons have one of the top teams in the league in taking care of the ball, having turned the ball over just 11 times (7 INTs, 4 fumbles). New Orleans has recorded 23 giveaways (14 INTs, 9 fumbles) this year.

In the last meeting between the Falcons and Saints, the emphasis on the ball played a huge role in the final outcome, as seen when Deion Jones picked off Drew Brees for a pick-six that put Atlanta up two scores.

Coach Dan Quinn knows this part of the game can directly correlate to the final outcome on Sunday.

"Like most weeks, that's totally going to be where this game is won," Quinn said. "New Orleans has done a good job; they have some ball hawks for sure on their side. It's going to be in all three phases, us owning it on offense, going after it defensively and then special teams seeing if we can get one off their returner."

Third down is going to be a factor

The Falcons will face the NFL's top team in third down efficiency when Brees and Co. take the field.

New Orleans has converted on 49 percent of their third downs.

So how have they been so successful in this part of their game?

"Everyone is involved," Quinn said New Orleans' offensive success on third down. "It goes to running backs, tight ends and the wide receivers. I think that's a really critical [area of emphasis], because that's how drives get extended."

The Saints have three receivers with over 800 yards this season in Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead.

For the Falcons to slow the Saints and their offensive weapons, tackling and ball-hawking are two things Quinn says his defense must do well.

Atlanta's offense has also been effective in this area as well, converting on 41 percent of their third downs.

"These are the top two possession teams in the red zone," Quinn said. "Our offense and New Orleans' offense. If you get some third down stops, those possessions don't go. You get third down wins; you get more possessions to keep going."

Capitalize on red zone scoring opportunities

Similar to the ball and third down, the red zone is an area the Falcons focus on at practice every week.

Atlanta ranks 10th in the league in red zone scoring, converting on 60.3 percent of their opportunities. New Orleans ranks 17th in the league in red zone defense, an area the Falcons can certainly exploit.

"Field goals versus touchdowns," Quinn said. "Who can play better down there, I think is where this game will come down to."

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