Week 6 Game Recap: Atlanta Falcons 34, New Orleans Saints 31
What you need to know
The Falcons narrowly escaped San Antonio with a victory, due mostly to their defense and special teams. They scored on a fumble return and a blocked field goal for two of their four touchdowns, and received a favorable set of penalties to set up a winning field goal.
QB Michael Vick completed fewer than half of his passes, completing just 11 of 23 passes for 112 yards. As a result of Vick’s issues all of the Atlanta receivers struggled. TE Alge Crumpler was the most productive, and even his production of four catches for 52 yards was rather unimpressive.
RB Warrick Dunn led a strong running game, recording his third 100 yard game of the year. Dunn finished a strong effort with his longest rush of the game, a touchdown of 21 yards. Vick added another 51 yards on the ground as the Falcons gained 160 rushing yards. RB TJ Duckett left the game in the second quarter with a right ankle sprain. Halftime x-rays were negative, but he did not return to the game.
K Todd Peterson remained perfect on his field goals for the year due in part to a penalty on his first game winner attempt that gave him another try from 36 yards.
With the loss of RB Deuce McAllister for the year after tearing his ACL, the big questions for the Saints concerned the running back position. Everyone wanted to know not just who would be in the backfield, but also how productive the revamped running game would be for New Orleans.
RBs Antowain Smith and Aaron Stecker answered the questions early and often, with both rushers splitting time in the backfield and each gaining over 80 yards rushing. Both backs had a role to play, with HC Jim Haslett favoring Stecker as the quick runner and a receiving option out of the backfield. Antowain Smith was used as a “between the tackles” rusher, pounding out the tough yards and getting the goal line carries. As a result, Smith scored two touchdowns, including a goal line plunge of one yard in the second quarter.
QB Aaron Brooks looked comfortable and poised in the pocket despite some pressure from the Falcons. Brooks was able to compliment the new found rushing attack with a strong performance, throwing for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
WR Joe Horn started the game, but was noticeably absent after the first quarter. He was seen on the sidelines in the second half, ready to re-enter the game. The broadcasters suspected that he may have re-aggravated his hamstring injury, and that was later confirmed to be the case after the game.
WR Az-zahir Hakim was the most favored target, getting ten looks. He was followed closely by fellow WRs Devery Henderson (nine targets) and Dante Stallworth (eight targets), who both scored touchdowns.
What you ought to know
|QB Michael Vick, Pass: 11 - 23 - 112 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 8 - 51 - 0|
Vick posted mediocre numbers as a pure passer, completing fewer than 50% of his passes for one touchdown and one interception. Vick started very slowly, completing only four passes on 11 tries in the first quarter. Things did not improve for the next two quarters, as Vick was one out of four in the second quarter and threw just one pass (incomplete) in the third. He did finish with a good fourth quarter, completing six of eight attempts for 62 yards and a touchdown to Justin Griffith.
To get the full picture of Michael Vick, he also must be viewed as a runner as well as a passer. Vick contributed to a strong Falcons’ running game with 51 yards on eight rushes, including picking up three first downs with his last three carries. Vick is always capable of breaking a big run, but his longest gain against the Saints was for just 12 yards. He looked to have re-injured his knee early in the game when he stayed down on the turf clutching his knee after a tackle. He shook it off and looked ok after that.
|RB Warrick Dunn, Rush: 22 - 100 - 1, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 (2 targets)|
Dunn had a strong game, working as the feature running back after RB T.J. Duckett left the game in the second quarter. Dunn showed strength and quickness, running between the tackles as well as running around the corners. He finished with 100 rushing yards, finishing strong with his best and longest rush for 21 yards and a score in the fourth quarter. Dunn added two catches for another 15 on his only two targets. He lost 15 yards in receiving yardage due to a penalty.
Griffith carried the ball just once for four yards in the third quarter, but he did also contribute as a receiver. Griffith caught two passes in the fourth quarter, the most significant was from a scrambling Michael Vick as he threw a soft pass in the left flat to a wide open Griffith. Griffith was able to waltz into the end zone for the touchdown.
Duckett ran for five yards on two first half carries, and then was seen walking to the locker room in the second quarter. Later news explained that Duckett suffered a right ankle sprain. Halftime x-rays were negative, but he did not return to the lineup after halftime.
Jenkins had three balls thrown his way in the first quarter, catching two of them for 11 and 13 yards respectively. Both catches garnered the Falcons first downs. Jenkins did not get another ball thrown in his direction for the remainder of the game.
White caught just one pass for ten yards in the fourth quarter.
White was the deep threat for the Falcons against the Saints, which was evident from the onset. White’s first target was a deep pass of 42 yards to the end zone that was batted away by the defense. White dropped his next target, the next was uncatchable, and the fourth skipped off his fingers and was intercepted. His final opportunity was the best, but still fell incomplete. White beat his defender to the outside and was alone on the sideline, but QB Vick’s pass hung up in the air too long and was too close to the numbers. White adjusted to the ball but it was too much of an adjustment and the pass actually brought the defender back into a position to make a play on both White and the ball. Had the pass been in stride, White would have had a 50 yard touchdown reception.
Finneran saw only one pass come his way, quite a difference from his 100+ yard performance last week when QB Matt Schaub was at the helm. Finneran was targeted in the first quarter on a pass of about ten yards and had the ball go off of his hands.
Crumpler was once again QB Vick’s favorite target, receiving seven targets. Crumpler snagged four balls for 52 yards, which was more impressive than it sounds. All the other three targets were not catchable, and the four catches represents 36% of the limited number of completions thrown by Vick.
Peterson made all of his “official” kicks. His game winning field goal on the last play of the game came immediately after he missed a 41 yard attempt wide left. Fortunately for both he and the Falcons, the Saints were called for a very questionable defensive holding penalty that allowed for a second chance. Peterson made good on his opportunity, as he now remains perfect on his field goal attempts for the season.
New Orleans was able to gain over 200 yards rushing despite losing their pro bowl RB Deuce McAllister for the season last week. The two back combination of RB Antowain Smith and RB Aaron Stecker both gained over 80 yards each, and QB Aaron Brooks was able to add another 28 yards on just three carries. The Saints achieved 15 first downs on the ground as they averaged over six yards a carry. The only bright spot was on a 66 yard fumble return for a touchdown by DB DeAngelo Hall.
The Falcons were unable to keep QB Aaron Brooks under consistent pressure, and between his comfort in the pocket and the strong running game, New Orleans had a good day throwing the ball. Brooks threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns. Atlanta managed just two sacks and one interception on a deflected pass.
|QB Aaron Brooks, Pass: 22 - 33 - 259 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 28 - 0|
Brooks looked very confident and comfortable throwing the ball both on the move and in the pocket. Brooks was under pressure a number of times, but was still able to complete two thirds of his passes for over 250 yards and two touchdowns. His only turnover was on a tipped pass by his receiver Devery Henderson. Henderson made up for it later, catching one of Brooks’ two fourth quarter touchdown passes.
The Saints’ passing game was helped greatly by the balanced attack from New Orleans. With both starting RBs contributing over 80 yards each towards a 200 yard rushing game, the Falcons always had to play both the run and the pass. Brooks took full advantage of both aspects, distributing the ball well amongst seven different receivers. Brooks also added 28 rushing yards on just three carries. Brooks’ rushing average entering the game was 7.6 per carry, better than his counterpart in this game, QB Michael Vick (7.3).
Stecker was the other starting running back for the Saints, as both he and RB Antowain Smith split time in the New Orleans backfield. Stecker was used for more of the quicker hitting plays, whether it was runs outside or catches out of the backfield.
Smith started the game in the backfield for the Saints in place of the injured RB Deuce McAllister, but it soon became apparent that he would be splitting time with RB Aaron Stecker. Smith was used solely as a ball carrier, running between the tackles and acting as the designated short yardage back. Smith scored two rushing touchdowns, the first of which was on a breakaway through the line of scrimmage and dashing untouched through the Falcons’ secondary for a 24 yard score. Smith scored another time from one yard out in the third quarter. Smith did have one very troublesome moment as he fumbled in the second quarter and the Falcons swooped in, picked it up and returned it for a touchdown.
Karney caught one pass out of the backfield for eight yards in the fourth quarter.
Stallworth had a solid game, catching every ball that came close to him. The first target was deflected at the line, but after that Stallworth went seven for seven, including a 27 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Stallworth was consistently open and catching the ball both at the sideline and across the middle for short and medium yardages (seven to 15 yards) aside from his longest catch for a score.
Hakim was the most targeted receiver for the Saints, as he was asked to move into the starting slot once WR Joe Horn was unable to continue. Hakim was consistently open downfield, helping QB Aaron Brooks feel both confident and comfortable with an outlet receiver. Hakim consistently helped to move the chains for New Orleans, catching four passes on short and medium routes for between 12 and 19 yards and four first downs in the first half. Hakim also caught a 17 yard touchdown, but it was nullified by a penalty call on him for offensive pass interference. Hakim added two more catches for 19 yards total, and again both were for first downs. Only two of his four other targets were catchable.
Henderson was the deep threat for the Saints, stretching the field on his first chance on a long throw from QB Aaron Brooks. All of his catches came in the second half, mostly in the final quarter. Henderson caught balls for under 20 yards each after halftime. He also drew a 21 yard pass interference call on his second target in the second quarter. Henderson added nine more yards on an end around in the fourth quarter.
Poole caught one pass for 12 yards in the fourth quarter.
Joe Horn started the game against the Falcons, and was the intended receiver on a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage early in the first quarter. After that, Horn was nowhere to be found on the field. He was seen walking around, holding his helmet on the sideline acting as if he was ready to go back in the game at any moment. Despite that appearance, Horn was replaced by Az-zahir Hakim in the starting lineup and remained out of the game.
The broadcasters of the game surmised that Horn may have re-aggravated his hamstring, but Horn was not seen receiving any treatment from the Saints’ medical personnel. It was not reported until after the game that Horn did indeed hurt his hamstring once again.
Hilton caught one pass in the first quarter for 18 yards and a first down.
Carney made his first field goal attempt, a short 19 yard kick in the second quarter. His second attempt was much more eventful, but not in Carney or the Saints’ favor. On the final play of the first half, Carney attempted a 47 yard field goal that was blocked and returned for a touchdown by the Falcons.
The Saints allowed the Falcons to gain 160 yards on an average of 4.8 yards a carry, including 100 yards by RB Warrick Dunn on just 22 carries. The Falcons gained 12 first downs on the ground, and just dominated on the second drive of the third quarter, a drive of 18 plays that took over ten minutes that featured 17 rushes.
New Orleans applied pressure to QB Michael Vick, tipping passes and applying pressure that resulted in one sack and one interception. Vick completed less than 50% of his pass attempts for just 106 net yards.