NFL GAME PREVIEW

Saints seek division title, revenge vs. Falcons

Field Level Media

November 27, 2019 at 8:07 pm.

The New Orleans Saints can win their third consecutive NFC South title by beating the host Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.

The Saints are 9-2 but less than three weeks removed from a shocking 26-9 home loss to the Falcons (3-8).

“Our players understand the importance of getting this next win,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said, “but we also know it’s a tough road game in the division and we’re going to have to play a lot better than we did the last time.”

When they last played, both teams were coming off their byes. The Saints had won six games in a row and the Falcons had lost six straight.

But Atlanta had its best rushing game of the season and New Orleans had its worst. The Falcons sacked Drew Brees a season-high six times (he has only been sacked three times in five other games combined this season) and the Saints failed to score a touchdown.

“They got after us a little bit on the pass rush,” Brees said. “We weren’t very balanced offensively. We didn’t run the ball that many times (11) and we didn’t run as effectively (season-low 52 rushing yards) as I know we can.”

Both teams returned to practice Monday for the short week, but the familiarity they have as division rivals and having played recently will help them prepare despite the limited amount of time.

“The little things are really going to matter this week, especially with being such a short week — really only two days to practice,” said Saints tight end Jared Cook. “We have to have a mindset and the focus that’s unmatched this week.”

It looked like the win against the Saints might have turned around Atlanta’s season when the Falcons followed it with a 29-3 victory at Carolina. But then came a 35-22 home loss to Tampa Bay last Sunday.

The Falcons had 11 sacks in the two wins, but had none against the Buccaneers. They allowed four sacks combined in the two wins, but gave up a season-high six against the Buccaneers with one turned into a touchdown as Ndamukong Suh returned a Matt Ryan fumble 6 yards.

Atlanta rushed for a season-high 143 yards against the Saints, but just 54 against the Panthers and 57 against the Buccaneers. The Falcons have rushed for fewer than 60 yards in six games this season.

“It obviously doesn’t feel good,” tackle Jake Matthews said of the Falcons’ 31st-ranked rushing offense (72.9 rush yards per game). “We are frustrated. We want to do better. The bottom line is that we have to find a way to get it done.”

The Falcons hadn’t allowed a touchdown in 10 consecutive quarters going into the game against Tampa Bay. Atlanta then gave up four TDs in the first 34 minutes.

“We knew what the formula was for two games,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. “It didn’t carry over. When we got away from that formula, we saw what the results were.

“We took two steps forward and then took a step back. We’ve got to be able to recapture all three phases playing together.”