2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Falcons fall at Payton's place, 23-17

By BRETT MARTEL - AP Sports Writer
    2013-09-09 02:54

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Drew Brees wasn't entirely thrilled with his 357-yard, two-touchdown performance through the air against the rival Atlanta Falcons.

New Orleans settled for field goals three times, and the star quarterback thought the Saints should have mustered a couple more touchdowns instead.

Brees was gratified, though, that his side of the ball didn't have to be quite that prolific on Sunday. New Orleans' revamped defense under new coordinator Rob Ryan applied regular pressure on Matt Ryan and kept Atlanta's talent-laden offense in check long enough to give head coach Sean Payton a 23-17 triumph in his regular season return from his bounty ban.

``I feel great for them,'' Brees said of his defensive teammates, many of whom were part of a historically bad 2012 unit that gave up a single-season record 7,042 yards last season. ``Obviously, they caught a lot of criticism, you know? And you bring in Rob Ryan. You bring in a new scheme. It's been a crazy offseason for them just trying to catch up and master that scheme.

``It's been great to watch them come together and just kind of gain that identity of: We're going to be a tough bunch that's going to get after people and we're going to have fun doing it and we're going to come up with big plays like we did today,'' Brees added.

The Saints' defense produced three sacks and two turnovers, one on receiver Julio Jones' fumble, which Roman Harper recovered, setting up Marques Colston's 25-yard touchdown catch. The second came on Ryan's fourth-down pass in the end zone which rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro tipped and Harper intercepted in the final minute, setting off wild celebrations by the Saints and the Superdome crowd.

The Falcons, meanwhile, were left to lament a missed opportunity to take the lead after Ryan's 20-yard connection to Harry Douglas gave Atlanta first down on the 7-yard line with more than a minute left. The Falcons managed only four more yards after that.

``Any time you lose it stinks, and certainly today it stinks that we didn't get the outcome that we wanted,'' Ryan said. ``We gave ourselves a chance, and we just fell short. The biggest part of being a professional is being able to move on. There's 15 more to go and lots of ball to be played.''

Here are five things we learned as New Orleans got the early jump on the NFC South race at the expense of the defending division champion Falcons:

1. PAYTON'S PLACE: The Superdome has simply become a tough place for Atlanta to play during the Payton era, including last season, when the head coach was banned from the building. Since Payton arrived in New Orleans in 2006, the Falcons have fallen in seven of eight games in the Big Easy. The only victory came in overtime in 2010. Last season, Atlanta's chance for a late go-ahead score evaporated when Jabari Greer broke up Ryan's fourth-and-goal pass for Roddy White. This year's victory, Brees noted, ``was very reminiscent of last year, with the same result.''

2. POROUS PROTECTION: The preseason raised questions about Atlanta's offensive line, and rightly so. The Saints were able to pressure Ryan routinely with a four-man rush, which made it easier cover Ryan receivers. In addition to sacking Ryan three times, the Saints hurried him on many more plays, resulting in everything from an intentional grounding penalty to a throw-away on third-and-goal. Atlanta has only two of five linemen starting in the same spot as last season.

``We have to protect the quarterback a lot better,'' Atlanta coach Mike Smith said.

3. IN SYNC: As far as Saints defensive captain and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton can tell, he and his defensive teammates are far more comfortable in Ryan's new 3-4 scheme than they were in Steve Spagnuolo's 4-3 front a year ago.

``I can definitely feel the difference just in the fact that we were confident,'' Lofton said. ``We can go out there and everyone was sure of what they had to do and they did it.''

The Saints gave up 367 total net yards to Atlanta on Sunday. Last season, New Orleans' defense gave up an average of 440 yards.

``Everything that was said about this defense in the offseason - we rose to the occasion,'' Lofton said.

4. ACTION JACKSON: Steven Jackson looks like he still has plenty to contribute as he begins his 10th season. In what was also his debut with Atlanta, he accounted for 122 offensive yards. He gained 77 on the ground on 11 carries, including a 50-yard run. He added 45 yards on five receptions. He only wished he could have held on to one last pass his way at the goal line on Atlanta's final drive. It was broken up by linebacker Ramon Humber.

5. PRACTICE?: Colston, the Saints' eighth-year receiver, missed most of the preseason while recovering a left foot injury. That didn't stop him from being one of Brees' most productive receivers in the regular season opener. Colston caught five passes for 68 yards, starting with a 25-yard TD on a diving catch which also gave Colston a franchise record 533 receptions.

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Dwayne AllenNov 23 12:42p

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle) is inactive Sunday, Nov. 23, for Week 12.

Trent WilliamsNov 23 12:32p

Washington Redskins OT Trent Williams (ankle, knee) is not expected to play in Week 12 because of his injuries.

Danny LansanahNov 23 12:22p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Danny Lansanah is moving from strongside linebacker to weakside linebacker in place of LB Lavonte David (hamstring). LB Orie Lemon will start at strongside linebacker.

Greg JenningsNov 23 11:52a

Minnesota Vikings WR Greg Jennings (rib) is active for the team's Week 12 game.

Blidi Wreh-WilsonNov 23 11:52a

The Tennessee Titans have declared CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, QB Charlie Whitehurst, WR Kris Durham, CB Marqueston Huff, TE Richard Gordon, DL Ropati Pitoitua, OT Will Svitek inactive for Week 12.

Arian FosterNov 23 11:42a

The Houston Texans have declared RB Arian Foster, WR DeVier Posey, OT Jeff Adams, S Josh Aubrey, CB Kareem Jackson, LB Max Bullough, QB Tom Savage inactive for Week 12.

Andre BranchNov 23 11:42a

The Jacksonville Jaguars have declared DL Andre Branch, LB Jeremiah George, WR Mike Brown, OT Sam Young, RB Storm Johnson, CB Teddy Williams, OG Tyler Shatley inactive for Week 12.

Crezdon ButlerNov 23 11:42a

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have declared CB C.J. X. Wilson, CB Crezdon Butler, DL Da'Quan Bowers, OT Kevin Pamphile, LB Lavonte David, RB Mike James, WR Robert Herron inactive for Week 12.

Jordan CameronNov 23 11:42a

The Cleveland Browns have declared TE Jordan Cameron, LB Karlos Dansby, WR Marlon Moore, CB Pierre Desir, DB Robert Nelson, WR Rodney Smith, OT Vinston Painter inactive for Week 12.

Rex BurkheadNov 23 11:42a

The Cincinnati Bengals have declared CB Chris Lewis-Harris, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, WR Greg Little, DL Margus Hunt, RB Rex Burkhead, OT Tanner Hawkinson, LB Vontaze Burfict inactive for Week 12.

Dwayne AllenNov 23 11:42a

The Indianapolis Colts have declared TE Dwayne Allen, OT Gosder Cherilus, CB Greg Toler, DL Kelcy Quarles, C Khaled Holmes, OG Lance Louis, NT Zachariah Kerr inactive for Week 12.

Arian FosterNov 23 11:33a

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) is out Sunday, Nov. 23, for Week 12.

Brandon WattsNov 23 11:32a

The Minnesota Vikings have declared OT Austin Wentworth, LB Brandon Watts, OG David Yankey, RB Matt Asiata, LB Michael Mauti, DL Sharrif Floyd, FB Zach Line inactive for Week 12.

Dennis KellyNov 23 11:32a

The Philadelphia Eagles have declared OT Dennis Kelly, DB Jaylen Watkins, WR Jeff Maehl, OG Julian Vandervelde, QB Nick Foles, CB Rashad Carmichael, DE Taylor Hart inactive for Week 12.

Josh GordonNov 23 11:22a

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon will not receive a fine or suspension for pleading guilty to driving under the influence charge in North Carolina, according to a source.

Reggie BushNov 23 11:12a

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) was not spotted during early warmups Sunday, Nov. 23, and he's unlikely to play in Week 12.

Lavonte DavidNov 23 10:52a

Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Lavonte David (hamstring) will miss the first game of his career Sunday, Nov. 23, as he's out for Week 12.

Larry FitzgeraldNov 23 10:32a

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee) 'needs a miracle' to play Sunday, Nov. 23, according to a source.

R. Griffin IIINov 23 10:12a

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Julius ThomasNov 23 10:02a

Denver Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle) is unlikely to play Sunday, Nov. 23, in Week 12.

Ben TateNov 23 09:52a

Minnesota Vikings RB Ben Tate will be active Sunday, Nov. 23, and have a role in Week 12. RB Matt Asiata will be inactive.

Lamar MillerNov 23 09:52a

Miami Dolphins RB Lamar Miller (shoulder, knee) will play Sunday, Nov. 23, according to a source.

Josh GordonNov 23 09:22a

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon is expected to play 20-30 snaps Sunday, Nov. 23.

Jonas GrayNov 23 09:22a

New England Patriots RB Jonas Gray will play Sunday, Nov. 23, after being late to practice Friday, Nov. 21. He'll split carries with RB LeGarrette Blount in Week 12.

Reggie BushNov 22 05:32p

Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle) is likely out for Week 12 and is targeting the Thanksgiving Day game Thursday, Nov. 27, to return.

Marcel ReeceNov 22 04:42p

Oakland Raiders FB Marcel Reece earned more carries after his performance in Week 12 Thursday, Nov. 20. Reece rushed for 46 yards during a crucial 17-play, 80-yard drive late [ More ]

Arian FosterNov 22 04:22p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) is highly unlikely to suit up Sunday, Nov. 23, for Week 12.

Josh GordonNov 22 01:32p

Cleveland Browns WR Josh Gordon was officially activated from the exempt/commissioner permission list Saturday, Nov. 22. In a subsequent move, the team waived LB Keith Pough.

A.J. JenkinsNov 22 12:42p

The Kansas City Chiefs have placed WR A.J. Jenkins (shoulder) on the Reserve/Injured list.

Charles ClayNov 21 05:52p

Miami Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee) did not practice Friday, Nov. 21, and he is doubtful for Week 12 against the Denver Broncos. Clay suffered a setback in practice [ More ]

Arian FosterNov 21 05:32p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) did not practice Friday, Nov. 21, and is questionable for Week 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Head coach Bill O'Brien said Foster would [ More ]

Jason AvantNov 21 04:52p

The Kansas City Chiefs will sign free-agent WR Jason Avant (Panthers), according to a source. Avant worked out for the team Friday, Nov. 21.

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