After a deplorable performance against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Saints have to come back and play the 5-0 Falcons on a short week. Dan Quinn's new squad finally bled on Sunday, struggling against the Redskins until a pick 6 preserved their undefeated season. Now, Hate Week is cut short as the Saints will try to topple the undefeated Falcons. For anyone that doesn't think that there's hope, remember when the 8-0 Falcons came to town in 2012. Not that history is a good precedent, particularly with team turnover, but the point is that any give [Thursday], anything can happen. Here's what to look for in Week 6.
1.) Julio Jones's Role
The Saints don't have anyone to match up to Julio Jones, but honestly the league doesn't have anyone to match up to Julio Jones. Keep an eye on how the Saints assign their coverage to try to mitigate the league's leading receiver, and also look to see how much he's hampered by his injured hamstring. While his cuts may be a bit less swift, Jones will still be able to fight for plays downfield, a category that Saints' corners have struggled defending to this point in the season. The secondary must minimize contact and penalties if they're going to compete against the potent Atlanta offense.
2.) Atlanta's Running Game
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman face off with a defense that made DeMarco Murray look like 2014 DeMarco Murray. The Saints had no answers for the halfback, whether he was receiving out of the backfield or running the football. If the Saints can force Atlanta's running game to at least sputter, then they should be able to put some semblance of pressure on the Atlanta offense. As it stands, every play call against the defense is working. The Saints need to get coordinators to condense the playbook.
The Saints' defensive line took a huge step back from Dallas to Philadelphia, as Sam Bradford had all the time in the world to throw the ball Sunday. Bobby Richardson's inactivity Sunday allowed the Eagles to swarm Cameron Jordan, and Hau'oli Kikaha took less snaps getting after the quarterback. The result was that an average secondary had to hold onto receivers for an exorbitantly long time, and the Eagles were able to have their way with the Saints through the air.
4.) OFFENSIVE PRESSURE
On the flip side of the ball, Drew Brees quickly learned that playing behind backups Andrus Peat and Senio Kelemete isn't going to end well for him. Brees lost two fumbles (that he was no small part of), both forced by Fletcher Cox of the Eagles. Brees never looked comfortable throwing the ball, and the Saints simply never had opportunities to go downfield. The Eagles smothered the Saints on both sides of the ball, and it began in the trenches on both sides.
One positive: Brees hasn't thrown multiple interceptions in a game this year, and the one against the Eagles came in garbage time at a time when the defense was able to key in on pass. Brees doesn't look comfortable, by any means, but he is going through his read progressions despite the quick pressures. Despite an inordinately high number of checkdowns, Brees has adjusted (or tried to) to the new offensive system that is in place for him with his injured shoulder. The Saints hope to stretch the field more against the Falcons, but whether or not they're able to do so against a talented secondary remains to be seen.