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10 things Saints fans need to know about the Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones was shut out in the second half against the Buccaneers.

 1. The Atlanta Falcons are 9-5. Entering Week 16 last season, the Falcons were 9-5 and in the middle of a four-game winning streak to end the regular season. Atlanta then went on to win two playoff games to advance to the Super Bowl. And we all know the result of the (clears throat) Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. 

  1. During their "Monday Night Football" game against Tampa Bay, the Falcons pounded the ball on the ground. Running back Devonta Freeman rushed for 126 yards on 22 carries, and added 68 yards on five receptions. Running back Terron Ward added 40 yards on eight carries, and quarterback Matt Ryan managed to pick up 29 yards on three scrambles.
  1. Freeman, a two-time Pro Bowler, ranks No. 11 in yards per game among running backs (67.2). Freeman rushed for a touchdown against the Buccaneers (it could have been two, but Freeman fumbled once in the end zone, and twice during the game) and had a 32-yard run. Teammate Tevin Coleman, ranked No. 28 among running backs in yards per game (45.6), suffered a concussion during the Week 14 game against the Saints. Coleman did not play against the Buccaneers, but is hopeful to return against the Saints on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Though Freeman leads the Falcons in rushing, it's Coleman who leads the team in touchdowns, with seven.
  1. The defending NFC champions trail division rivals New Orleans and Carolina by one game with two weeks remaining in the regular season. But if the Falcons beat the Saints (10-4) and Panthers (10-4) in their final two regular-season games, they win the NFC South again. One victory in the final two games guarantees Atlanta a playoff berth.
  1. Atlanta is 5-2 on the road, with their only two road losses coming against the Panthers and Patriots.
  1. Julio Jones was shut out in the second half against the Buccaneers. The third leading receiver in the NFL was held to 54 yards on three receptions in the first half.
  1. Matt Ryan's 2016 was poetic, to say the least. Ryan was named the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year after completing 69.9 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards, with 38 touchdowns and a 117.1 passer rating. Ryan made his fourth Pro Bowl appearance, set franchise records for: passing yards (4,944), touchdowns (38), passer rating (117.1), completion percentage (69.9), and 25+ yard passes (42); set an NFL record by completing touchdown passes to 13 different receivers in 2016, and led the league in yards per attempt. However, Ryan's numbers haven't matched last season's production.

2016 2017
Passing Totals 319 of 465 completed for 4,336 yards, 68.6%. 32 TD, 7 INT (leading NFC) 292 of 448 completed for 3,490 yards, 65.2%  18 TD, 11 INT
Third down passing 68.2 % 63.3 %
Red Zone passing 58% Inside 20 46.48 % Inside 20
Yards per attempt 9. 3 7.8

  1. Atlanta's pass defense was notable Monday, with the Falcons allowing 289 passing yards. The Falcons rank No. 12 in pass defense, allowing 3,039 yards this season, 217 per game.
  1. Linebacker Deion Jones, a New Orleans native, had his best game of the season against the Saints in Week 14. Jones totaled 13 tackles (three tackles for a loss), two pass deflections, and a game-saving interception in the end zone.
  1. Not to be confused with Saints defensive back Justin Hardee, Falcons wide receiver Justin Hardy has 17 receptions, including two on Monday resulting in 33 yards and one touchdown. Hardy was active in the last matchup against the Saints but did not record any stats. 

More game action photos from the Saints-Falcons matchup.

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