Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

November 22, 2018 at 1:34 am.


–Ageless K Matt Bryant showed no ill-effects from a three-week layoff because of a hamstring injury. Bryant was 4-for-4 on field goals, making kicks of 53, 45, 43 and 21 yards. Bryant is 12-for-12 on field goals this season and has made all four of his attempts from 50-plus yards.

–QB Matt Ryan completed 24 of 34 passes for 291 yards and one touchdown for a 94.1 passer rating. He had one interception, which was picked off after the ball went through the hands of rookie Calvin Ridley.

–TE Austin Hooper had four catches for 27 yards against Dallas. The third-year veteran has 50 catches this season for 445 yards.

–LB Deion Jones was activated last week and participated in practice, but did not play. Jones is expected to play on Thursday against the Saints.

–LB Foye Oluokun had a career-best 10 tackles (six of them solo). The rookie from Yale led the team in tackles against Dallas.

–CB Desmond Trufant injured his thigh against the Cowboys. He is questionable.

–CB Robert Alford is dealing with an ongoing foot injury. His status for Thursday is not known.

–FS Damontae Kazee left the last game with a shoulder injury. His status for Thursday is not known.

–LB DeVondre Campbell is working through a thigh injury. His status is not known.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Rookie CB Isaiah Oliver, the team’s second-round pick from Colorado, is starting to live up to expectations after a slow start due to an ankle injury. Oliver could be a big help this week when the Falcons go to their dime package. Oliver’s athleticism and versatility has been important this season and head coach Dan Quinn said Oliver could be featured in various packages.

“So far this season he’s covered receivers, running backs, tight ends,” Quinn said. “Because of that length and speed that he has, sometimes we use him in a matchup we like on third downs.”

Oliver has appeared in eight games and made two starts. He has 14 tackles, 13 of them solo, and credited with five passes defended.

“He’s continuing to get better at the technique,” Quinn said. “He’s continuing to stay really square at the line of scrimmage with really good knee bend and he’s now using all that length that he has.”

Oliver could play a larger role on Thursday if cornerback Robert Alford is limited because of a foot injury.

GAME PLAN: Given the Saints’ ability to score points (144 over the last three weeks), the Falcons must avoid empty possessions and come away with touchdowns rather than settling for field goals. In their first meeting, New Orleans scored touchdowns on their final four possessions, including the game-winner in overtime. “Every time we get the ball will be critical,” wide receiver Julio Jones said. “What teams do, especially the Saints, they’ll try to keep us on the sideline for a duration, for long periods of time. When we get the ball, we’ve got to score points.” The Falcons can’t afford a special teams mistake, either. The Saints blocked a punt in the last meeting and that turned out to be the difference in the game.

QUOTES TO NOTE: Coach Dan Quinn on limiting the Saints’ offense: “Well, I think one thing it seems like they’re running the ball better than the first game – or not better, maybe they’re running the ball more than they were in the first game with the addition of (Mark) Ingram back into it. So I don’t know if he’ll have 15 targets or 15 catches this week. That may, I don’t know there plan obviously. I think they’re running it more and more effectively than they were earlier. For us, I think the matchups, how do we have to play them, that’s something we studied hard this week.”
Quarterback Matt Ryan on the Saints’ defense: I think they’re one, playing well up front. Their front-seven is doing a nice job creating good push both in the run game and in the pass game. Then obviously they’ve been very explosive on the other side of the ball, so teams have been playing behind and have gotten into more passing situations. They just look like they’re playing with confidence and playing well. It’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
Julio Jones, on whether he’d spoken with ex-Falcon Roddy White, a noted Saints hater: “He hated playing New Orleans. He hated the Saints. He was always talking about them. Roddy was crazy. No, he hasn’t called me yet though.”

–Falcons CB Robert Alford vs. Saints WR Michael Thomas. Alford had a nice game last week but may not be at full speed because of a foot injury. He will need to be at the top of his game against Thomas, who had 10 catches for 129 yards in the first meeting. Thomas has 82 receptions for 1,042 yards and eight touchdowns in 2018.

–Falcons RB Tevin Coleman vs. Saints LB Demario Davis. The Falcons could use a good effort from Coleman, who was limited to 33 yards on 15 carries against the Saints in September. Coleman has rushed for 500 yards and caught 26 passes for 251 yards this season.