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John DeShazier: Breaking down the Saints-Falcons game

Botched punt return was costly

OFFENSE: Offensively, there were a handful of things to point to that were more than satisfactory, especially coming off a 13-point, 288-yard performance against the Giants. The New Orleans Saints had their first 100-yard rushing game of the season (115 on 23 carries), Drew Breescompleted 36 of 54 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception, and tight end Coby Fleener(109 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions) had his first 100-yard receiving day as a Saint. But after taking a 7-0 lead, the Saints spent the night in catch-up mode. They didn't abandon the run, but 54 pass attempts is a hefty number and though the Saints converted seven of 13 times on third down, it wasn't enough on a night where Brees' interception was returned 90 yards for a touchdown, and a special teams gaffe essentially handed the Falcons a touchdown. Still, the offense has accounted for 34 and 32 points in two home games, and the Saints don't have a victory to show for it. That's concerning, to say the least, but you'd like to believe that if the offense keeps scoring and executing, the team will break through with a win soon.

DEFENSE: All the promise that was shown at MetLife Stadium against the Giants last Sunday, when the Saints allowed three field goals on defense in a 16-13 loss, took two steps back against Atlanta. The Falcons scored on six consecutive possessions – five of them touchdowns – and compiled 442 yards on seven yards per play. Logically, a struggle to some degree could be expected after three starters (cornerback P.J. Williams, defensive tackle Tyeler Davisonand safety Kenny Vaccaro) were lost after the Giants game; Williams is gone for the season. But the Saints allowed 217 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns and seven yards per carry – and the Falcons' last three carries went for minus-3 yards. Simply, if New Orleans can't stop the run, it's going to be a long, long season defensively.

SPECIAL TEAMS: For the second consecutive game, the argument can be made that the game swung on a special team error. Against New York, it was a blocked, 32-yard field-goal attempt that the Giants returned 65 yards for their only touchdown. Against Atlanta, after the defense forced a three-and-out on Atlanta's first possession, De'Vante Harriscollided with punt returner Tommylee Lewiswhile attempting to block for Lewis. With both on the Superdome turf, Harris sprang to his feet, grabbed the ball and promptly fumbled. Atlanta recovered at the Saints' 11-yard line, and all the momentum that had been built was gone. Three plays later, Falcons running back Tevin Colemanscored the first of his three rushing touchdowns, on a 2-yarder. It's been a difficult two weeks for the Saints in a couple of areas that should be considered routine – blocking for a short field-goal attempt and fielding a punt. It has rained, and now poured, on the special team unit. The bad weather has to stop.

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