I’m going to break my rule of leaving for the stadium three hours before kickoff and extend it to four hours. That’s largely because I believe it could be a little tricky getting around downtown Atlanta and the Georgia Dome tonight.
For the record, I’ll be arriving at the Georgia Dome with several colleagues, but I think it’s important for Falcons fans to know that Trent Dilfer will not be with me.
Anyway, I’ll touch base as soon as I get settled into the Georgia Dome. Also, Matt Williamson from Scouts Inc. and I will be taking part in Countdown Daily, an in-game chat with readers and others from ESPN joining in. We’ll post an item on the blog that will take you into Countdown Daily an hour or two before kickoff.
In the meantime, let’s turn to ESPN Stats & Information for a few nuggets to hold you over as we wait for the showdown between the Saints and Falcons.
Drew Brees, with 391 completions this season, needs nine to reach the 400-mark for the third time as a pro. All other players in NFL history combined have produced just five 400-completion seasons: Warren Moon, Drew Bledsoe, Rich Gannon, Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning have one each.
The Saints allowed 202 rushing yards to the Falcons on Sept. 26 in an overtime contest in which Atlanta had 50 rushing plays. But last week, the Saints allowed 208 yards to the Ravens on only 39 carries -- an average of 5.3 yards per carry. It was the first time since the 2008 season that New Orleans had let an opponent amass 200 rushing yards and average five yards per carry.
Garrett Hartley missed a 29-yard field goal in overtime when the Falcons and Saints met on Sept. 26 at New Orleans. Matt Bryant later won the game for Atlanta, 27-24, with a 46-yard field goal, and Hartley spent the next two weeks on the inactive list while 46-year-old John Carney took his spot. It was the NFL's shortest field-goal miss in overtime since an Atlanta-Tampa Bay game in Tampa on Christmas Eve of 2005. In that game, Atlanta's Todd Peterson had a 28-yard overtime attempt blocked and Bryant, then with Tampa Bay, missed from 27 yards on the next possession. Bryant eventually won it for the Buccaneers with a 41-yard field goal.
Matt Ryan's passer rating in 2010 is 90.5; he could become the first Falcons quarterback to finish a season with a rating of 90 or higher (minimum: eight starts) since Chris Chandler earned a 100.9 rating for the 1998 team that wound up playing in the Super Bowl.
Everything's working in the Falcons' favor this season: Opposing kickers have made only 13 of 21 field goal attempts against Atlanta; that rate of 62 percent is the lowest against any NFL team. (You have to go back to 2003 to find the last NFL team against which opposing kickers had such a low percentage; that year, the Redskins "held" their opponents to a 61-percent rate.)
The Falcons have won eight straight, but over the last three games, their opponents have run for 454 yards and have averaged 5.8 yards per carry. The last NFL team to win three straight games despite allowing at least 450 rushing yards and at least 5.8 yards per carry was the Saints in 2006.
John Abraham joined the 100-sacks club two weeks ago, and with a sack last week at Seattle, he now has 101.5 sacks. His single-game high of four sacks came while playing for the Jets against the Saints back on Nov. 4, 2001, his second season in the league, but he has had only two sacks (including one this year) in eight games against New Orleans since then.