Atlanta Falcons: Sean Weatherspoon

The loss of starting linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to a season-ending Achilles tear has forced the Atlanta Falcons to look into a number of veteran players for help.

Tim Dobbins, a former fifth-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers who last played with the Houston Texans, will visit the Falcons today, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation. The timetable for the visit remains unclear.

Dobbins, 31, has 22 starts in eight seasons with the Chargers, Dolphins, and Texans. The inside linebacker was released by the Texans three games into last season. He had been battling a hamstring injury then but was healthy upon hitting the open market. Dobbins developed a reputation as a special teams standout and took some heat for a viscous hit on Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler back in 2012.

Signing Dobbins wouldn't necessarily mean he would replace Weatherspoon. The Falcons like some of their rookie inside linebackers, including fourth-round pick Prince Shembo and fifth-rounder Marquis Spruill. Shembo made the switch from outside linebacker to inside linebacker during organized team activities, and Spruill is solid in coverage and a possible option in the sub package.

The Falcons have moved to a 3-4 base scheme, with Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu currently working as the inside linebackers in such a setup. Worrilow and Shembo might provide the best combination moving forward. Dobbins has experience in the 3-4.

The Falcons reportedly are considering former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma as well. Vilma's status might come down to how much money he's seeking and how healthy he is coming off a knee injury.
Many have voiced support for Michael Sam as he aspires to be the first openly gay player in the NFL. Add Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon to his list of supporters.

Weatherspoon was a senior at Missouri in 2009 when Sam was a redshirt freshman.

"I was happy Mike was able to come out and be himself," Weatherspoon said Monday, his first public comments about his former college teammate. "I think the thing right now is that he would rather focus on football. But it's kind of tough, with everybody just wanting to talk about the potential of a gay player being in the locker room. To me, it's not a problem. I've already been in the locker room with Michael. Guys didn't talk about it, but we all kind of knew."

Sam publicly acknowledged his sexuality in February. Several months earlier, before the 2013 college football season, he came out to his Missouri teammates. Weatherspoon, who remains close to the Missouri program and attends Tigers game when possible, knew about that meeting.

“In training camp is when they talked about it,” Weatherspoon said. “And that's when I knew about [Sam's sexuality], because I have young little brothers still there.”

The Missouri players kept word of Sam's announcement inside the program, respecting their teammate's decision to come out publicly on his own terms.

“That's just how we are out there," Weatherspoon said of the tight bond between members of the program. "It's really a different place. ... That support is there. The coaches do a good job of attracting guys that are about family. And you get that family feel. Like people say, 'Family is everything.' Even though it's an extended family, it's still our family.”

The next phase for Sam is proving to NFL personnel that he's more than a "tweener" and is capable of making plays as a pass rusher in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme. He wasn't overly impressive at the NFL combine, although he did improve his numbers during Missouri's pro day. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay initially gave Sam a fourth-round grade.

"For right now, my advice to Mike is just to make sure you stay in shape because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter who you date," Weatherspoon said. "It's all about what you do on Sundays. That's going to determine how long you play here. The main thing is football.

"We are in a time where the locker room has not matured yet. But Mike, he's a guy with a great sense of humor. I think after a while, it won't be a big deal at all. Hopefully it's not going to be a big deal to the team he goes to."
Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who injured his right knee in last week's win over Washington, is inactive for Monday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Weatherspoon didn't practice all week leading up to the game and was listed as questionable on the final injury report. Without Weatherspoon, the Falcons will turn to Stephen Nicholas as the third linebacker in the base defense, alongside rookies Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu.

Rookie safety Zeke Motta, who injured his neck in practice last week, also is inactive after making his first career start last week. Veteran free safety Thomas DeCoud is back in the starting lineup after missing last week with a concussion.

Also inactive for the Falcons are wide receiver Darius Johnson (high-ankle sprain), running back Josh Vaughan, tackle Terren Jones, tackle Sean Locklear, and defensive tackle Travian Robertson.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons starting linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who injured his right knee in last Sunday’s 27-26 win over the Washington Redskins, is questionable for Monday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Weatherspoon has missed seven games this season with a Lisfranc foot sprain. His latest injury forced him to miss practice all week, which seems likely to keep him from playing against the 49ers.

Weatherspoon exited last Sunday’s game immediately after teammate William Moore’s third-quarter interception.

If Weatherspooon is unable to go against the 49ers, Stephen Nicholas would start at linebacker next to rookies Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu, provided the Falcons begin the game in their base defense.

Nicholas, who lost his starting job earlier in the season, played well after replacing Weatherspoon last week. He finished with five tackles and a forced fumble in the red zone despite playing just seven defensive snaps.

"That’s what it’s about: being productive,’’ Nicholas said. "But I’m just going out there and doing my job. That’s all.’’

Nicholas took some criticism after last season’s NFC Championship Game for his defense against speedy tight end Vernon Davis as well as a crucial second-quarter unnecessary roughness penalty. However, his tackling could be a key factor Monday night as the Falcons try to contain running back Frank Gore.

"They understand what I can do and what I bring to this team,’’ said Nicholas, the team’s leading tackler in 2012.

In other injury news, rookie free safety Zeke Motta, who suffered a neck injury during Wednesday’s practice, was ruled out for Monday night, as was rookie wide receiver Darius Johnson (high-ankle sprain). Being without Motta leaves rookie Kemal Ishmael as the backup safety behind starters Thomas DeCoud and Moore.

DeCoud is set to play after missing last week with a concussion.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez (toe) is listed as questionable but is expected to play. And running back/special-teamer Antone Smith, who missed last week’s game with a knee injury, is listed as questionable but practiced the past two days.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith sounded cautiously optimistic about the knee injury suffered by linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, and expects free safety Thomas DeCoud back in the lineup off a concussion.

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Weatherspoon injured his knee in Sunday’s 27-26 win against the Washington Redskins. It remains unclear whether it is the same knee injury that landed him on the injury report prior to the Green Bay game.

"I do not have an update on Sean," Smith said Monday. "We met this morning, and there was no update. I anticipate that if there’s anything that you guys need to know, we’ll let you know. If not, (then) on Wednesday, we’ll see where he’s at. (I) believe that he’ll be ready to go at some point in time this week."

The Falcons next play Dec. 23 at San Francisco on ESPN's "Monday Night Football."

If Weatherspoon is unable to go, Stephen Nicholas would return to the starting lineup alongside rookies Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu. Nicholas had five tackles and a forced fumble after Weatherspoon left Sunday’s game.

As for DeCoud, he missed the Redskins game after suffering a concussion against Green Bay. DeCoud stood on the sideline Sunday.

"Thomas will go to the next step in the protocol," Smith said. "He will be participating in practice on Wednesday, but it will be non-contact. We’re anticipating that we’ll have Thomas back, barring any setbacks in practice."

Smith reiterated his stance from last week about not having any intentions of shutting DeCoud down for the season.

"The doctors will make that decision based on what they say," Smith said. "If they have cleared him to go out and play, we need to have Thomas out there on the field. It gives us the best chance to win."

The Falcons went with rookie seventh-round pick Zeke Motta in place of DeCoud on Sunday, and Motta admitted making a few mistakes in coverage.

"I thought Zeke did some good things," Smith said. "Obviously, as we mentioned, there are some learning opportunities, some learning situations on certain plays. I thought as the game went on, he played much better.

"There at the end of the ball game, I thought that he made some very physical tackles. And it was his first time starting in the National Football League, and he did a good job for us."

Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White to play

December, 15, 2013
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ATLANTA -- Tight end Tony Gonzalez and wide receiver Roddy White are active for the Atlanta Falcons, as expected, despite being listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins.

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Gonzalez has been dealing with a nagging toe injury, and White banged up his left knee against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (shoulder) and safety Zeke Motta (hand) are active, also, despite being listed as questionable.

Safety Thomas DeCoud (concussion) and running back Antone Smith (knee) are inactive. Also inactive: linebacker Omar Gaither, tackle Terren Jones, tackle Sean Locklear, tight end Chase Coffman, and defensive tackle Travian Robertson.

For the Redskins, quarterback Robert Griffin III is inactive, and will be replaced by Kirk Cousins. The other inactives: safety Bacarri Rambo, cornerback Chase Minnifield, linebacker Brandon Jenkins, linebacker Darryl Tapp, guard Josh LeRibeaus, and tight end Jordan Reed.

Sean Weatherspoon supports Mike Nolan

December, 12, 2013
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – While offensive players such as Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez expressed support for offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter moving forward, at least one Atlanta Falcon did the same for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

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Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, known as the team’s vocal leader, sees no reason why Nolan’s status for next season should be questioned, even despite the team’s defensive woes.

"We’re really comfortable with Mike,’’ Weatherspoon said. "Everybody on our defense really speaks highly of him. They really enjoy working with him. We would hope that they keep him around here.

"But, you know, it’s a business, man. Things happen. And you just have to continue to keep your focus on the right path. You have to keep working regardless of the situation.’’

When asked point blank if he expected to come back next season, Nolan responded, "Come back? That’s the team’s decision, not mine.’’

Nolan went on to talk about the roadblocks encountered by the team this season, specifically the inordinate amount of injuries. He said he has been pleased with some of the defensive gameplans but not totally satisfied with the execution of those game plans.

Nolan’s defense ranks 30th (out of 32 teams) against the run, 29th in points allowed, and 26th in total defense as the Falcons prepare to face the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

On a positive note, the struggles of the 3-10 Falcons have allowed Nolan to get a closer look at some of his young defenders as the team continues to build toward the future.

"I think the future is bright,’’ Weatherspoon said. "I looked on the tape from last week and I remember one play – an outside running play to (Packers running back) Eddie Lacy – you see the guys who made the tackle were rookies. You look and see [Stansly] Maponga, Malliciah Goodman, [Paul] Worrilow. You see Joplo [Bartu]. You see [Desmond] Trufant.

"All the guys in the frame, they’re really stepping up here lately and playing a lot of ball. It gives you confidence going into the future. They’ll know what they’re doing. They’re going to be comfortable playing ball. And I think the only way to go is up for them.’’
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It wasn’t the ideal way for Sean Weatherspoon to score his first career touchdown, but he’ll take it.

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The Atlanta Falcons linebacker’s 71-yard interception return for a score Sunday was the result of Weatherspoon grabbing a ball that bounced off the foot of teammate Paul Worrilow. Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn delivered the pass, which was initially tipped by Falcons defensive lineman Peria Jerry before it bounced off Worrilow’s right foot.

Most of the Packers seemed confused by the play and stopped. Weatherspoon didn’t.

"We’re just coached to finish," Weatherspoon said. "You want to sell it, even if it ain’t ... so what if it hit the ground, you still have got to take that chance.

"That’s a great play by Worrilow. I’m not sure what happened to the ball before he hit it -- before he kicked it, actually. It’s awesome, though."

Weatherspoon, who missed seven games with a Lisfranc foot sprain, made the play much more dramatic with his long run and a smooth sidestep to avoid 318-pound Packers offensive guard T.J. Lang.

"I had to cut back," Weatherspoon said. "That’s why we kind of have to time it up where I didn’t want to exert too much. And I cut back on him, and the guys just led me."

Robert Alford threw the key block on Packers receiver Jarrett Boykin while Worrilow raced down the field also looking to clear a path for Weatherspoon. Worrilow explained how the play got kick-started.

"It was just a reaction," Worrilow said of the kicked ball. "It’s not like I was trying to kick it to myself. I really had no control over it. It was just a natural reaction. I was just trying to keep the ball in play. Fortunately, it went to Spoon and not somebody else.

"As soon as I saw he had it, I took off trying to make a block for him. It was a big play. It was a big momentum swing."

Yet the Falcons couldn’t sustain the momentum. They scored two touchdowns as a result of turnovers: the Weatherspoon return and Matt Ryan's 2-yard touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez after Malliciah Goodman recovered a Flynn fumble, caused by William Moore.

Although the result was a victory for the Packers, the kicked interception is sure to be the most memorable moment of the game.

"That was a unique play in terms of the ball was tipped and then it was kicked up in the air," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Sean made a great run after the catch. And we had some guys doing a nice job blocking downfield."
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Mike Smith didn't get all his players back to full participation, as he had hoped, but the coach still likes the overall health of his Atlanta Falcons heading into Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers.

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and offensive lineman Peter Konz, both of whom were limited during Wednesday's practice, had full participation during Thursday's session. Weatherspoon is coming off a knee injury, Konz a tweaked ankle.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez and safety Zeke Motta were the only two Falcons limited on Thursday. Gonzalez continues to deal with a toe injury but is healthier than he's been in weeks. Motta broke a finger on his right hand and continues to play with a cast.

Roddy White's absence from the injury report for the second straight week means the receiver is close to full strength, although White told ESPN.com his previously sprained right ankle continues to bother him.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith said he doesn't anticipate any player missing Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers due to injury.

Four players were limited during Wednesday's practice: tight end Tony Gonzalez (toe), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (knee), offensive lineman Peter Konz (ankle) and safety Zeke Motta (hand).

"We're in pretty good shape," Smith said after practice. "Tony is ahead of schedule. He practiced more today than he did at this time last week. He's feeling better.

"I think the guys will be full-go tomorrow. We're all on track. Nobody is 100 percent at this time of the season, but everyone is healthy enough to go out and play. And that's a good thing this time of the season."

In Green Bay, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was limited coming off a broken collarbone and seems unlikely to play Sunday, although Rodgers hasn't been ruled out.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said he was fined "a little less than $20,000" for his hit on Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel last Sunday.

Weatherspoon picked up a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer on the first-quarter play. The rookie Manuel had to be taken out of the game for a snap and was replaced by backup Thad Lewis.

Players are typically fined $15,750 for such infractions.

Fellow Falcon William Moore also was flagged for unnecessary roughness against the Bills and could have received a fine. Moore was not available during Wednesday's open locker room session. His latest penalty came as a result of a high hit on Bills receiver Robert Woods.

Moore already has been fined a total of $74,550 -- according to NFL records -- for four separate illegal hits this season.

Gonzalez, Weatherspoon questionable

November, 29, 2013
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Tony Gonzalez showed up on the final injury report as questionable for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, but the Atlanta Falcons tight end is expected to play through a nagging toe issue.

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Of bigger concern for the Falcons might be the status of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. He also is questionable but was downgraded in Friday's practice to limited with a newly surfaced knee injury to go with a lingering shoulder problem.

With reserve linebacker Akeem Dent also questionable with an ankle injury, the Falcons have obvious health concerns at a position that has been decimated by injury all season.

Also questionable for the Falcons are defensive end Malliciah Goodman and safety Zeke Motta. Goodman missed the last two games with a calf injury, and Motta has been playing with a cast on his right hand after breaking a finger.

Cornerback Desmond Trufant, who banged up his thigh in a collision with teammate William Moore during the Saints game, had full participation Friday and is probable.

In Buffalo, standout defensive tackle Kyle Williams was added to the injury report with a back injury and is questionable. Williams told reporters he slept on it wrong.

Practice report: Gonzalez limited

November, 27, 2013
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Tight end Tony Gonzalez, who continues to battle a toe injury, was one of six Atlanta Falcons limited during Wednesday's practice.

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Gonzalez was spotted catching a few passes without a helmet on at the end of practice. He was not on the field during the viewing portion, held indoors.

The veteran was questionable for the last two games but played regardless. He is expected to play Sunday against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto, barring any setbacks over the next two days.

Also limited at practice were defensive end Malliciah Goodman (calf), linebacker Akeem Dent (ankle), safety Zeke Motta (hand), cornerback Desmond Trufant (thigh) and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (shoulder). Goodman missed the last two games due to his injury.

For Buffalo, three players showed up on the injury report but all three had full participation in practice: wide receiver Stevie Johnson (groin), wide receiver Robert Woods (ankle) and cornerback Nickell Robey (ankle).
Tony Gonzalez, Curtis LoftonAP Photo/David Goldman"It's not the outcome that we wanted," Tony Gonzalez said, but "I'm happy the way we played."
 
ATLANTA – Sean Weatherspoon looked every one of his defensive teammates straight in the eyes before Thursday night's game and encouraged them to play like there was no tomorrow.

The Atlanta Falcons linebacker had delivered plenty of emotional sermons before, including a tearful one at halftime of the Seattle game when he was still on injured reserve. But this time, he was in the line of battle with his teammates in full uniform, prepared to fight right alongside of them.

"Just motivation," Weatherspoon said of this pregame speech. "You get out there and play together, and don't worry about anything else. As long as we have a chance to get on the field, we still feel like we have a chance to help our offense, help win the game. We just talked about playing with a certain energy, man.

"Ultimately, we didn't get the result that we wanted. But we did play with more energy tonight."

Any notion that the Falcons had mailed in the season was put to rest Thursday night, even despite their 17-13 loss to the rival New Orleans Saints. The Falcons played with a sense of urgency despite dropping to a hard-to-imagine 2-9 on the season. They took this game personally, not just because many Saints fans infiltrated the Georgia Dome.

Trying to snap a four-game losing streak and attempting to salvage a dismal season was enough inspiration.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez, who insisted this week that the team hadn't quit on coach Mike Smith, was asked why the Falcons came out so motivated.

"Because we've been getting embarrassed," Gonzalez said. "I hope that's the reason why. We're a better football team than what we've showed these last [four] weeks. I think the way we played today was back to that old Falcons style of football. Obviously, we didn't come out and win. But I'm happy. I'm encouraged by it.

"And don’t get me wrong -- we still lost. It's a bad taste in our mouths. It's not the outcome that we wanted. We're not accepting it. … We're still disappointed. But at the same time, I'm happy the way we played. If we keep that same attitude, like I said before, things are going to be looking good for us in the future. No doubt."

Progress was watching the defense force a three-and-out on the opening drive and limiting Drew Brees and the Saints to three points in the second half. Progress was the Falcons' offense getting consecutive 8-yard runs from Steven Jackson and the line paving the way for Jackson's 1-yard touchdown plunge on its opening drive.

[+] EnlargeSteven Jackson
AP Photo/Dave MartinSteven Jackson went over the top for his first rushing TD as a Falcon.
Progress was having a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, something the Falcons haven't experienced in recent weeks.

"I felt like the effort in the ballgame was good and gave us a chance to win the football game," Smith said. "I like how we started the game. We liked how we started the game. Felt like we played well, in spurts.''

The Falcons might have surged ahead had it not been for an untimely fumble in the red zone by rookie receiver Darius Johnson at the start of the fourth quarter. It was another one of those miscues symbolic of how the season has imploded. But Smith emphasized that the fumble was not why his team lost the game.

There were other gaping holes. The offensive line allowed too much pressure on Matt Ryan, who was sacked a season-high five times. The defense surrendered another handful of explosive plays, including a 44-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Saints tight end Jimmy Graham on a play that safety William Moore admitted he botched.

Despite those deficiencies, and the costly fumble, the Falcons had a chance in the final minutes. Smith stood behind his decision not to go for a fourth-and-15 from the Saints’ 34-yard line trailing by four with 2:24 left. He opted instead for a 52-yard field-goal try, which Matt Bryant missed after the Saints froze him with a timeout. Smith's thought was to pull to within one with the kick, stop the Saints with three timeouts and then drive for a game-winning field goal.

It didn't work out exactly as planned, but at least the Falcons' effort was spirited.

"I thought that we responded to some momentum changes, to some adversity, in the football game," Smith said. "But still not good enough. When you don't win, it's not good enough."
Marques Colston and Paul WorrilowAP PhotoPaul Worrilow, right, and the Falcons defense will try to slow down Marques Colston and the Saints.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith seemed annoyed by the question, but he answered it.

A reporter asked Smith this week if he is concerned about there being more New Orleans Saints fans than Falcons fans at the Georgia Dome on Thursday night.

"Absolutely not," Smith said. "Our fans, I think, are the best in the NFL. We've got a great record since we've been here in terms of winning football games. They've been very supportive. I know that they are disappointed and they are discouraged, but there's nobody more disappointed and discouraged … than us here in this building and on this football team.

"We certainly hope that they'll be out there supporting us this week. It's a big division game."

The matchup would be much more intriguing if the 2-8 Falcons were on pace with the 8-2 Saints. But that's a far-fetched scenario now.

ESPN.com Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure and Saints reporter Mike Triplett break down the NFC South clash:

McClure: Hey Mike, I know the Saints hold a decisive edge going into this game, but this is quite a rivalry and there is much hatred between the teams. Did any of the players give any specific examples of the bad blood that exists when these rivals collide?

Triplett: No one really mentioned bad blood, but we know it exists from past examples. And no one denies the passion that exists in these annual matchups, even on these rare occasions when one of the teams is out of the playoff race. A few Saints players compared it to a college rivalry, like Stanford-Cal, insisting that the records don't matter when they square off. I think they'd also like to exorcise a few demons from their ugly Thursday night performance at Atlanta last season, so the Falcons shouldn't cling to any hopes that this might be some sort of trap game for New Orleans.

Vaughn, I haven't watched the Falcons too closely this season, but I keep being surprised that the hole gets deeper and deeper (especially after last week's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Any signs that they're close to putting things together?

McClure: I don't see the Falcons rebounding this season, not with the Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers still left on the schedule. They have to start building momentum for next season. I believe Coach Smith has already started the process by giving players such as center Joe Hawley, running back Antone Smith, tackle Ryan Schraeder and safety Zeke Motta more playing time. I wouldn't say that the Falcons are tanking it for a draft pick, but having a top-five selection has to be in their minds.

Smith talked about looking at scheme in terms of turning things around. I could see the Falcons running the ball more to balance out the offense. And defensively, they have to consider dialing up more blitzes to generate pressure, because the front four is not getting it done. They'll have a tough time contending with Drew Brees. Certainly Brees is itching for the opportunity to pick the Falcons apart, correct?

Triplett: Yes, Brees should be the Falcons' biggest concern, as usual. He's playing about as well as ever. Even when he hasn't been dominant throughout games, he's been clutch in the fourth quarter. And he's as competitive as it gets, so he certainly hasn't forgotten his shockingly bad performance at Atlanta last season (five interceptions).

I'm not sure it would do much good to blitz Brees. Three of his biggest throws this past week came when the 49ers blitzed. The best formula for slowing down the Saints passing game has been getting physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage to disrupt routes and playing solid man coverage.

The best news for Atlanta is that Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles are both a little banged up (Sproles' status is questionable). How will the Falcons match up against Graham in coverage?

McClure: In watching the last game between the teams, I saw at least three different defenders try to match up with Graham, and Graham had no problem going up against Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud. In fact, Graham scored a 7-yard touchdown after DeCoud was late getting over in coverage. It will be hard to match up one-on-one against a player as talented as Graham -- no matter if his foot and elbow are still bothering him -- so I could see some bracket coverage. But I will mention that linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who just returned to the lineup from a Lisfranc foot sprain, did an excellent job covering Graham on at least one play in Week 1. And I saw Weatherspoon working hard last week on his coverage skills coming off the injury.

Mike, I see the Saints lost cornerback Jabari Greer for the season with a torn ACL. The Falcons have Roddy White back somewhat healthy and have gotten great production from Harry Douglas. How will Greer's absence affect the Saints in terms of defending a capable receiving corps?

Triplett: That's a great question, because the Saints' play at cornerback has really been one of the underrated reasons for their success this season. Their top corner has been Keenan Lewis, who is playing at a Pro Bowl level and generally shadows the opponent's top receiver. But Greer has been very reliable as the other starter, allowing the Saints to trust those guys in single coverage quite a bit.

The Saints have decent depth behind Greer. They're going to be counting on second-year cornerback Corey White, who has shown a lot of promise but will likely face a few growing pains. His performance will be worth watching, because I'm sure the Falcons will test him out. Of course, it helps the Saints that they don't have Julio Jones to deal with, so they won't feel too sorry for themselves.

 

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