Man, oh man, I am still both buzzing with excitement and emotionally worn out from that action-packed and record-filled Monday evening in the Dome that was the New Orleans Saints 45-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
The Saints now have 12 wins on the season, and are still alive (albeit barely breathing, as they need a highly unlikely Rams win over the 49ers) for the # 2 seed.
But before we can really get into all that talk and future speculation, let's dig into the nuts and bolts of the Falcons game one more time to see how HansDat's Hot Reads turned out.
Falcons vs Saints coverage
Primary Option: Protect Drew Brees
What I'd Like To See: More of the same from Week 10. Give Brees the protection he needs to keep the offense humming along to victory. Let's keep him sack-free, on his feet, and off the ground (especially out of the clutches of John Abraham, their leading sacker). Heck, maybe he can even sway a few final undecided MVP voters along the way.
From where I was sitting, it seemed that the line and chippers offered Brees excellent protection for most of the night. The Falcons defense notched only one sack, and two QB hits. Brees did a great job of avoiding pressure when it did come, but a few times he held the ball a bit too long, waiting for something to develop.
Since I called for a sack-free game, the best I can do is call this Hot Read partly achieved.
Checkdown # 1: Run More And Run Better
What I'd Like To See: Mo' better running than they achieved in Week 10. The Falcons give up just a shade under 97 yards per game, so it won't be easy, but I think they'll need at least 30 attempts and 125+ yards. I'd like to see it early and often to keep the Falcons off-balance, but I also wouldn't mind if most of the carries came at the end as they control the clock to win the game.
I'd have to say that quadrupling their previous 41-yard output counts as mo' better running. The Saints recorded 23 carries for 164 yards (with 84 of those yards coming in the first half). And with averaging 7.1 yards per carry (that's pretty darn efficient) and the team gunning for the passing record for Brees, it's no wonder they didn't reach 30 carries. Well done, Saints!
But given that I specifically called for 30 carries, I must again score this as a Hot Read that was only partially achieved.
Checkdown # 2: Third Down Turnaround
What I'd Like To See: At least 60% success on third downs tonight. Put up or go home. It's that simple.
Well, on this Read, the Saints definitely put up (10 of 13 for 77%) and sent the Falcons packing - HARD.
Hot Read: ACHIEVED
Safety Valve: Fundamental Tackling
What I'd Like To See: Saint defenders getting to Falcon ball carriers quickly and bringing them down cleanly with good technique. See what you hit, wrap up, and be sure to lift/drive through the ball carrier. Watch their hips - they can't go anywhere without them. If you are the first to arrive, don't go for the hit or strip, let the next guy do that once you have secured the ball carrier and are dragging him down. It will save yardage and my voice.
Well, it wasn't not fun, but it wasn't big fun, either. At times they were right there with clean tackles, other times they missed a bit, and on other tries, I noticed strip attempts by the first man to the ball (Roman Harper) without really trying to make a tackle. They gave up 434 passing yards, but only 35 on the ground, and yielded only 16 points the whole game, so even though they weren't perfect, it wasn't too costly, so what are you gonna do?
I'll tell you what I'll do: call this Hot Read partly achieved, I will.
Bonus Hot Read: Be Special On Special Teams
What I'd Like To See: The Saints to be the ones who make that special play break their way. Whether it's a big stop that keeps the Falcons from getting points, a takeaway on a return that snags an extra possession and maybe a short field for the Saints, a big return (maybe for a score), a successful "roxy-roxy" play, or whatever. They just need to end up on the right side of whatever this big play ends up being.
I thought this would be a close game in which a big special teams play was going to make a difference, but the game wasn't even that close at all. There WAS a big special teams play (a 92-yard kickoff return to the Falcons 14-yard line), and someone on the Saints DID make it (Darren Sproles), but it was in the third quarter, when the score was 28-13, and it hardly qualifies as a game changer (the drive itself went nowhere and led to John Kasay's only FG of the game).
So, I can only give this Hot Read partial credit.
* * *
This week, the Saints achieved on 3 out of 5 Hot Reads and still managed to squeak out a 29-point win and take care of the season passing record against the Falcons, so bully for them.
Now let me know what you think of my assessment of the game, my Reads, and their impact.