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Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Falcons' D can't bite cheese with Brees

By Vaughn McClure

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Drew Brees is going to get his yards. It's inevitable based on the high-powered New Orleans Saints' offense he orchestrates.

The Atlanta Falcons have faced Brees too many times to understand how capable he is of throwing for 300-plus yards. None of that will matter Thursday night, however, if the Falcons find a way to contain Brees when it counts the most.

In the first matchup between the teams -- a 23-17 win by the Saints in Week 1 -- Brees completed 26 of 35 passes for 357 yards and two scores. But Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon did notice something that worked in his team's favor.

"When I think about that game, I think we did a pretty good job in the red zone,'' Weatherspoon said. "We want to lean on that. They're going to move the ball. They're one of those the teams that, they've got a play for everything. So, I think it will be really key in the red zone. If we can keep them out of the end zone, that will give us a better chance.''

Weatherspoon was on point with his assessment. The Falcons actually held the Saints to 33 percent conversion in the red zone (1-of-3) in the first meeting. Weatherspoon, who was healthy in that game, did his part with a tackle for a loss during a fourth-quarter Saints' red zone drive, helping to force a field goal.

However, the Falcons' defense currently ranks 28th in the league in red zone defense, allowing opponents to convert 63.9 percent of the time.

Not to mention the Saints appear to have tight end Jimmy Graham back at full strength to be the primary red zone target. And Brees is going to be Brees, particularly when he has his full arsenal of weapons.

"He's one of those quarterbacks you can't really trust,'' Weatherspoon said. "He does a good job of moving the defense in zones. I think it's going to be key to disguise what we do and make a lot of things look the same. That will help us against Drew Brees.

"Don't bite cheese. When I say the cheese, I mean he's going to look you off, he's going to fake and there's nobody even there where he's faking to. He's just looking to throw you off. So you've got to stay true to your scheme and your job.''

The scheme hasn't worked in the Falcons' favor this year, which is why head coach Mike Smith talked about re-evaluating scheme on both sides of the ball. It's still hard to imagine the Falcons will enter this showdown with their bitter rival sitting at 2-8 and on a four-game losing streak.

"It definitely sucks, man, because we've worked hard,'' safety William Moore said. "If you would have told me back in training camp this would be going on, I wouldn't have believed it. But at the same time, I'm just proud that ain't nobody gave up. Everybody's working. ... It's not just going out there. We're trying to win, man. Unfortunately, we're just coming up short.''

If the Falcons can keep Brees short of the end zone, maybe they'll surprise everyone Thursday night and come out on top.