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Falcons' Umenyiora tired of losing to Brees

9/3/2014

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons veteran pass-rusher Osi Umenyiora has dropped his share of games against New Orleans Saints gunslinger Drew Brees.

When Umenyiora first encountered Brees in 2005, his New York Giants lost to Brees' San Diego Chargers, 45-23. Then the next season, when Brees left San Diego for New Orleans, he guided the Saints to a 30-7 win against Umenyiora and the Giants.

In fact, Umenyiora lost his first four games against Brees and is 1-6 all-time against him, including 0-2 upon joining the Falcons last season.

"Basically every time I played him while I was with the Giants, they beat us pretty good," Umenyiora said. "You knew right away, this guy is serious. He ran the offenses tremendously.

"One time I beat him, in 2012 (52-27). I think we got up on them and really kicked their ass on offense and on special teams. You get him down, and it becomes difficult. But if they are able to be in the game and they have the option to run and pass, he's going to deal with you, man."

Brees is 13-3 against the Falcons since joining the Saints, and five of his 26-game winning drives with New Orleans have come against Atlanta. In those 16 previous games versus the Falcons as a Saint, Brees completed 412 of 615 passes for 4,913 yards with 33 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, and a passer rating of 96.9.

"Excellent quarterback; very accurate," Umenyiora said. "He knows what he wants to do before the snap of the ball. He's just a great player."

Umenyiora, now the team's designated pass-rusher, hopes to be part of the formula that knocks Brees off his game Sunday. If the Falcons can recreate what happened in 2012, when they forced Brees into five interceptions in a 23-13 win, then they'll be much better off. They only had one sack in that game, but it was a game-changing one by John Abraham late in the contest.

Maybe the sack numbers won't be there Sunday, but the Falcons have to generate pressure somehow. Umenyiora believes getting a push up the middle and getting pressure in Brees' face, because he's a shorter quarterback, will be a key factor.

"Obviously, they've got a very good scheme," Umenyiora said. "All you can do, pretty much, is see how much push you can get up the middle and have good consistent pressure. And that's the key to trying to disrupt some of the timing and some of the things they do."

Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan realizes how difficult it will be to pressure Brees. He was the league's top quarterback against the blitz last season while completing 66.5 percent of his passes against such pressure, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"Drew's a great quarterback; he's a Hall of Fame quarterback," Nolan said. "He's very good at recognizing the blitz. He's good at getting rid of the ball. He's good at avoiding the sack in the pocket. He's does a lot of things good that the great ones do. So we have our work cut out for us more than a typical week.

"He does have a knack for finding the lanes. I think that any good quarterback will tell you, they really do see through the lanes. They're not going to see over the top of a 6-5 guy. ...It does help to be a little taller to get the vision, but it hasn't seemed to affect Drew very much. He finds them. I think part of that is just knowing how every play is going to develop. He knows where a guy is going to be. He doesn't have to kind of look the field over to find the open guy."