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Saints Battle Tested, Rude Awakening For The Falcons

Week one is in the books and the NFC South went 1-3, with the Saints jumping out to an early lead. The Bruce Arians era in Tampa began with a loss to to the Niners with an inaccurate showing from Jameis Winston. Meanwhile the Falcons and Panthers had painful losses to the Falcons and Vikings respectively. They were always going to be tough games, they could well prove costly down the stretch when tiebreakers become a factor.

Texans 28, Saints 30

For the Saints, they showed what they couldn’t do, even after the dodgy PI call, in the NFC Championship Game; they can finish off a game, with a perfectly executed 37 second drive to get into field goal range and win the game. New Orleans can out-grind pretty much any team and are just about the most battle tested team outside of New England.

This was arguably the best result for Sean Payton in week one, be tested and require points late in the game but ultimately securing a win. Drew Brees was impressive, 32-43 for 370 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, but ultimately we know who he is. The question is if he can put up those numbers late in the year?

New Orleans Offence Starts Hot

Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara were dependable as ever, combining for 292 yards from scrimmage. Contributions from Tedd Ginn, Jared Cook and Latavius Murray, as well as TDs from Tre’Quan Smith and Taysom Hill, show that the Saints have a diverse range of options on offence.

On defence, they will be slightly concerned, allowing the Texans, admittedly an explosive offence, to open up an 11 point lead twice and allowing 414 yards at home. Ultimately it was a well earned result with areas to work on going into week two.

Falcons 12, Vikings 28

It was a different story for the Falcons, humbled on the road by a reinvigorated Vikings team. Injury added to insult with first round pick Chris Lindstrom breaking his foot. Lindstrom has been placed on IR and is expected to be in a walking boot for eight weeks before he can get back in football shape. It’s a devastating blow for the Falcons who had emphasised rebuilding the offensive line in the Spring.

Now they will have to do it without their most talented addition, though they did add plenty of depth on the line, including his replacement, Jamon Brown. However, it is concerning that the eagerly anticipated line allowed four sacks. It may have been the Minnesota Vikings, but these aren’t the purple people eaters of old.

Atlanta were shut out until the fourth quarter despite outgaining their hosts by 85 yards (345-269) but three turnovers killed their momentum and allowed the Vikings to build up an unassailable lead.

The Falcons were so-so on offence, only rushing for 73 yards, although that was affected by chasing the game, and no receiver topped 100 yards, although three topped 50, Austin Hooper, Calvin Ridley and Mo Sanu.

Atlanta Inefficient

The crazy stat that will concern Atlanta is that they lost after conceding 98 yards through the air. The interceptions by Matt Ryan and inability to stop Dalvin Cook cost them the game.

In fact, just about the only good news for Atlanta this week was Julio Jones being locked up for three more years in a deal worth $66 Million. He celebrated it with a late touchdown but it was solely a consolation.

For the Falcons, the stats are okay for their week one loss but they need to be clinical. Now they face an AFC South tour, travelling to Indianapolis and Houston, sandwiching the Titans coming to town. The Falcons need to recover and quick to avoid falling behind in the division as well as the wildcard race.

Photo: Anthony Souffle / Star Tribune

Article written by:

I'm a fan of all sorts of sports, from football to football to Formula One, with a little rugby in between. I've been a Ravens fan for nearing two decades having grown up in Baltimore and now enjoy writing about the ultra-competitive NFC South.

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