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Three and Out: Monday in New Orleans


First Down

Irrespective of what the Falcons did on Sunday, the New Orleans Saints' performance in their 46-34 victory over the Miami Dolphins is frightening. The Dolphins held a 21-point lead in the second quarter and lost. Which poses the question: Which is the more impressive victory, the Saints' 48-27 over the New York Giants, who had the NFL's No. 1 defense going into last week's game, or this Sunday's win over the Dolphins? New Orleans has now scored 46 or more points *three *times in six games.

Second Down

Now let's add in the Falcons' disconcerting performance on Sunday. The pass defense allowed 299 yards. The offense committed three turnovers. One trend I saw running through some of the Falcons' post-game quotes was how the Falcons felt that perhaps the biggest factor in the game was Dallas' success in rushing the passer. New Orleans ranks 15th in pass defense. Maybe that's something the Falcons can use to their advantage. But Dallas entered 23rd in pass defense. Were the Cowboys just more desperate on Sunday?

Here's a post-game quote from Michael Turner that caught my eye about Dallas: "They are playing with a lot of intensity out there. They just played great."

Third Down

I'll be curious to hear Head Coach Mike Smith's evaluation on Monday of what ailed the Falcons' defensively. Looking at the final game summary, I see that Tye Hill did not play on Sunday. I wonder whether Smith will say if he thought that part of the problem was the cornerbacks' play and whether Hill may get a shot against the Saints.

Also, could an increased dose of Jason Snelling help to fix what's wrong with the running game? Snelling rushed for almost 10 yards per carry on Sunday (68 yards on seven carries) while Turner still struggles. Turner did not break three yards per carry on Sunday.

And out...

One factor that got the Falcons off to their 4-1 start was turnover margin. They were plus-5 entering Sunday. They leave the game plus-3. Certainly they will have to do better against New Orleans. Quarterback Matt Ryan had a very uncharacteristic day with two interceptions and one lost fumble, a result of the Cowboys' pass rush.

If Ryan has a big showing on Monday night, it could go a long way towards changing things. If not...

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