The Atlanta Falcons have a matchup they will more than assuredly lose on Thursday Night Football to the New Orleans Saints. There are three key matchups that the Falcons will have to control in order to have any shot at winning against the dreaded Saints.
While battles of Junior Galette versus Lamar Holmes could be impactful, the biggest three skirmishes of the game will be between Drew Brees and Thomas DeCoud, Jimmy Graham and William Moore, and Cameron Jordan versus whoever ends up playing right tackle for the Falcons on Thursday night.
Saints' Drew Brees vs. Falcons' Thomas DeCoud
Despite it looking like an easy win for the Saints on the surface, this has always been a back and forth battle between the Falcons long-time veteran safety and the Saints starting quarterback. This is the fifth year the pairing will go against each other.
With familiarity breeds contempt. These two tend to have each other's numbers at times. In three of the eight matchups, Brees has thrown towards DeCoud four or more times. In those, he tended to target Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham running seam routes at a higher rate.
|Drew Brees vs. Thomas DeCoud By Game|
|Game||ATT||COMP||Comp %||Yds||TD||INT||PD||Passer Rating|
|2013 Wk 1||3||2||66.7%||28||1||0||0||136.1|
|2012 Wk 10||0||0||0%||0||0||0||0||39.6|
|2012 Wk 13||4||3||75.0%||36||0||1||0||62.5|
|2011 Wk 10||5||5||100.0%||94||1||0||0||158.3|
|2011 Wk 16||3||2||66.7%||26||0||0||1||93.8|
|2010 Wk 3||3||1||33.3%||14||0||1||0||9.7|
|2010 Wk 16||5||4||80.0%||12||0||0||1||79.2|
|2009 Wk 8||2||2||100.0%||43||0||0||0||118.8|
|Pro Football Focus.com|
In those three games, Brees is 12-of-14 for 142 yards, one touchdown and one interception. DeCoud also knocked away the other incompletion. However, the Falcons need to put DeCoud in a position to succeed and a position to not be targeted much by the Saints offense.
In the other five matchups between these two, Brees was only 7-of-11 for 111 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Brees' passer rating against when he doesn't try to pick on him is an average 89.6. That's just over 20 points less than the 109.8 he gets when he does pick on DeCoud.
It's always going to be a rough matchup between these two cerebral players. If Thomas DeCoud wants to get what has been a mediocre year for him back on track, he has to make a couple plays on the ball against a quarterback he has had success against in the past.
And if New Orleans wants to attack DeCoud, they should. He's looked to have regressed in coverage in 2013, and the Saints could take advantage of Atlanta's lack of pass rush. Give Brees time to attack a coverage, and he will destroy it. The Falcons—and DeCoud—can't let that happen.
Saints' Jimmy Graham vs. Falcons' William Moore
While Jimmy Graham should see a lot of Joplo Bartu in his face at the line of scrimmage, the Falcons would be wise to put William Moore on him most of the game. It's also what they have a tendency to do against the Saints.
The Falcons will have to make sure that the banged-up Graham doesn't go off on them, and there's a couple schools of thought on how to stop him. However, the one that makes the most sense includes a ton of jamming him at the line and then running a trail technique with a guy over the top.
Moore is an ideal guy to be the one in the trail technique, as he jumps underneath routes effectively underneath by attacking the ball in the air. Graham will have to make sure he fights for the ball at all times because it could get a bit chippy while these two fight for positioning on the field.
With the ball in his hands, Graham is one of the toughest players to take down. However, Moore has proven that he can take down almost anyone and should be able to limit the excessive yards after the catch that Graham has been able to get throughout the years.
In the first matchup of the season, Graham only had four catches despite seven targets. However, of those seven targets, Moore was covering him on none of them. In fact, Moore has shut down Graham when he's been on him the past two games.
This will have to continue for the Falcons to have a legitimate chance against the Saints this week. It is very unlikely that it will continue, but Moore needs to show that he's been worth the investment, and shutting down the game's best tight end would be one way to do it.
Falcons' RT Jeremy Trueblood or Ryan Schraeder vs. Saints' DE Cameron Jordan
The Falcons right tackle situation has been a bit messy to say the least. After going into training camp with Mike Johnson as the projected starter, the Falcons lost him to injury early on in the preseason. While it opened the door for Ryan Schraeder to secure a roster spot, the Falcons started Lamar Holmes in the opener.
That didn't work exceptionally well, as Holmes had his worst game of the season at the time. Now, with Sam Baker out for the year and Holmes moved over to left tackle, Jeremy Trueblood and Schraeder are the most likely starters against the Saints on Thursday night.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, neither one looks like they could stop Cameron Jordan of the Saints. The third-year defensive end has really been coming into his own as a pass rusher in Rob Ryan's scheme, as he already has 7.0 sacks, nine quarterback hits and 31 quarterback hurries.
That's more production in 10 games this year than he had in all 16 games last year. The Falcons need to key on the disruptive pass rusher in order to keep Matt Ryan healthy and on the field. So that means that either Trueblood or Schraeder will have to step up and perform at a level that neither have played at this year.
If one can step up, Jordan still will get his pressure, but it should be much less than it was in the first game (0 sacks, 1 hit, 8 hurries). And if neither one can hold up individually, the Falcons may have to run a six-man offensive line to slow him down.
With how this season has gone, the Falcons could ill afford to lose Ryan to injury. But if they can't stop Jordan, that just might happen.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.