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Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Play action a big deal for Falcons, Saints

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

As we look ahead to Monday night’s game between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, we should probably start thinking about play-action passing.

It will be strength against strength because the Saints and Falcons both excel in this area.

New Orleans’ Drew Brees leads the league in completion percentage (70.4) on play-action passing and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is No. 3 at 69.7 percent.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Brees has attempted more play-action passes than any quarterback in the league. Brees has completed 112 of 159 attempts for 1,293 yards (No. 2 in the league) for 12 touchdowns and three interceptions. Brees has been sacked four times off play action and his NFL passer rating is 112.0.

Ryan has completed 69 of 99 play-action passes for 858 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Ryan has been sacked just once on a play-action attempt and his NFL passer rating in those situations is 118.2.

Oh, we should also keep in mind that when the Saints defeated the Falcons in overtime in Week 10, Brees completed 17 of 19 play-action passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns.

So Carolina and Tampa Bay fans don’t feel slighted, let’s fill you in on how Cam Newton and Josh Freeman have fared in play-action passing.

Newton ranks No. 12 at 64 percent (73 of 114). Newton’s thrown for 983 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions, but he’s been sacked eight times. His passer rating is 89.2.

Freeman is No. 18 at 60.3 percent (47 of 78). He’s thrown for 632 yards, but the rest of the numbers aren’t pretty. Freeman has thrown three touchdowns off play action, but has been intercepted six times and sacked four times. His passer rating is 66.8 percent and only Jacksonville rookie Blaine Gabbert (48.3) comes in lower in that category.