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

Pierre ThomasOct 30 07:22p

New Orleans Saints RBs Khiry Robinson (forearm) and Pierre Thomas (shoulder) are both inactive in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers Thursday, Oct. 30.

David HawthorneOct 30 07:12p

The New Orleans Saints have declared LB Austin Johnson, LB David Hawthorne, C Jonathan Goodwin, RB Khiry Robinson, WR Nick Toon, RB Pierre Thomas, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste inactive for Week 9.

Amini SilatoluOct 30 07:12p

The Carolina Panthers have declared OG Amini Silatolu, CB Bene Benwikere, OT Byron Bell, RB Fozzy Whittaker, WR Philly Brown, FS Thomas DeCoud, OG Trai Turner inactive for Week 9.

Brandon BrownerOct 30 04:32p

New England Patriots DT Alan Branch (non-injury related) and DE Chandler Jones (hip) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. S Nate Ebner (finger), DL Dominique Easley (knee), OL Cameron [ More ]

Brandon ThompsonOct 30 04:22p

Cincinnati Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard (hamstring), LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring) and OG Kevin Zeitler (calf) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. DT Domata Peko (toe) and OT Andre Smith [ More ]

Dwight FreeneyOct 30 04:22p

San Diego Chargers LB Manti Te'o (foot), CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) and S Jahleel Addae (concussion) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. LB Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring) was limited. CB [ More ]

Donald BrownOct 30 04:12p

San Diego Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion) practiced fully Thursday, Oct. 30.

Terrell SuggsOct 30 04:02p

Baltimore Ravens WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (foot) and LB Terrell Suggs (neck) all did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. OG Marshal Yanda (knee) [ More ]

Brett KeiselOct 30 03:52p

Pittsburgh Steelers DE Brett Keisel (non-injury), SS Troy Polamalu (non-injury) and SS Ross Ventrone (hamstring) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Ike Taylor (forearm) and FS [ More ]

Bruce CarterOct 30 03:22p

Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter (finger) suffered a broken ring finger during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, but expects to play in Week 9. He will wear a splint on his finger for protection.

Cullen JenkinsOct 30 03:12p

New York Giants DT Cullen Jenkins (calf) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (back, hamstring) and P Steve Weatherford (ankle) were both limited in practice.

Brandon BoykinOct 30 03:12p

Philadelphia Eagles FS Nate Allen (hamstring) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. TE Brent Celek (back) and WR Brad Smith (groin) were both limited in practice. CB [ More ]

D'Qwell JacksonOct 30 03:12p

Indianapolis Colts LB D'Qwell Jackson (toe), DT Arthur Jones (ankle), LB Erik Walden (quadriceps) and LB Josh McNary (ankle) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB Vontae [ More ]

Rashad JenningsOct 30 02:42p

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (knee) said he is on track in terms of his rehab, but there is no timetable for his return. Jennings said he has [ More ]

Jordan CameronOct 30 02:32p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Anthony CollinsOct 30 02:32p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers OT Oniel Cousins is working at left tackle with the first-team offense during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, because OT Anthony Collins (foot) is sitting out practice.

Doug MartinOct 30 02:22p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (ankle) is not participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Jason VerrettOct 30 01:52p

San Diego Chargers CB Jason Verrett (shoulder) is expected to miss two to three weeks with a torn labrum, according to two sources.

DeAngelo WilliamsOct 30 01:52p

Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle) will start the team's Week 9 game against the New Orleans Saints Thursday, Oct. 30, according to head coach Ron Rivera.

R. Griffin IIIOct 30 01:42p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) received most of the work with the first-team offense during practice Thursday, Oct. 30, and will start in Week 9 if he [ More ]

Jaylen WatkinsOct 30 01:32p

Philadelphia Eagles SS Earl Wolff, FS Chris Maragos and CB Jaylen Watkins could be options to start at safety if FS Nate Allen (hamstring) is not able to play in Week 9.

Giovani BernardOct 30 01:22p

Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (hip, shoulder) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Tony RomoOct 30 01:02p

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back) didn't take part in the walk-through Thursday, Oct. 30, and will not practice with the team. However, head coach Jason Garrett remains hopeful [ More ]

Trent RichardsonOct 30 12:42p

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring) is participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Reggie WayneOct 30 12:42p

Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow) is not participating in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Tony RomoOct 30 12:22p

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo's (back) status is making head coach Jason Garrett feel optimistic about his availability for Week 9.

Dallas ThomasOct 30 11:43a

Miami Dolphins OG Dallas Thomas would be the most likely candidate to start at left guard if OG Daryn Colledge (illness) is not able to play in Week 9.

Rashad JenningsOct 30 11:12a

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (knee) has been ruled out for Week 9.

Phil BatesOct 30 10:52a

The Cleveland Browns signed free-agent WR Phil Bates (Seahawks) to the practice squad and released CB Marcus Cromartie Thursday, Oct. 30.

Charles SimsOct 30 10:13a

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Charles Sims could have 10 or more touches in Week 9, in the opinion of beat writer Greg Auman.

Ryan MathewsOct 30 09:52a

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) is likely to sit out of the Week 9 game and return after the Week 10 bye.

Dennis PittaOct 30 09:52a

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip) may never be able to play football again after two surgeries on a fractured and dislocated hip in as many seasons.

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