New Orleans Saints Pass Rush Dominates Atlanta Falcons

New Orleans Saints Pass Rush

Sean Payton’s decision to start quarterback Taysom Hill over Jameis Winston has been rewarded for now. However, the real story of Week 11 is how the New Orleans Saints pass rush gave Matt Ryan a living nightmare. Because it dominated the Atlanta Falcons for four quarters in Sunday’s 24-9 New Orleans victory. 

New Orleans Saints Pass Rush Dominates Atlanta Falcons

New Orleans Saints Pass Rush Controls the Game

Against the Falcons on Sunday, the Saints defensive line controlled the game. Ryan threw passes from a messy pocket all game. His offensive linemen were consistently pushed back into his lap by the dominant Saints pass rush for four quarters. As a result, New Orleans sacked Ryan a grand total of eight times.

Defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson have impressed throughout 2020. Their strength and pass rush talent are obvious. On Sunday, the pair lived in Atlanta’s backfield as Jordan finished with three sacks. Meanwhile, Hendrickson stretched his lead in sacks amongst Saints on the season to nine. As New Orleans’ breakout star got to Ryan twice. 

Defensive tackle David Onyemata also provided consistent pressure up the middle, racking up two sacks to his name. The Saints unit made Matt Ryan look like a statue in the pocket. 

A Breakout Performance for an Improved Unit

The Saints defense has been quietly one of the better units in the league for several seasons. Under Dennis Allen, the defensive side of the ball has steadily improved to the point in 2020 where they are playing better football than the New Orleans offense.

For years, this unit was a laughingstock, always guaranteed to be among the worst in the league. The 2020 Saints coaching staff know that. Secondly, the players know that. And they are all determined to imprint a new philosophy in New Orleans. This defense wants to be feared. An eight sack outing against one of the better offenses in the league will make 31 other teams sit up and take notice of this Saints defense.

In addition, the Saints already had the second-best run defense in the league coming into Week 11. If Jordan, Hendrickson, Onyemata, and Marcus Davenport can keep up this level of elite play on opposition passing downs, this unit will continue to dominate. 

Turnovers Key for the New Orleans Saints

It was obvious the Falcons’ offense could not handle the Saints’ pressure. But even more important for Dennis Allen’s defense and New Orleans moving forward is that the pressure leads to turnovers. Something the great New Orleans teams under Sean Payton would pride themselves on 

Matt Ryan was forced into throwing two bad interceptions. Marcus Williams and Janoris Jenkins were the beneficiaries on Sunday, but it’s all created by the defensive line’s consistent pressure. The first interception was a Hail Mary to the end the half. However, the relentless pursuit by the Saints line made Ryan throw the ball before he was set. 

The second interception rewarded the Saints’ tenacity and stamina to keep going for four quarters. Ryan jumped around in the pocket all game, unable to set his feet forcing the quarterback to get rid of the ball fast. Consequently, deep into the fourth quarter, on third down and four, trailing by two scores, Ryan forced a ball to a receiver on a slant route who simply wasn’t open. Already sacked eight times, he knew the pass rush would be on him quickly. As a result, the timing was off, Ryan was off his spot, and the pass was off-target. Interception Jenkins, game over. 

New Orleans Saints in Hunt for Number One Seed

The Saints defense was dominant against Atlanta. Eight sacks and two interceptions are the two key statistics in the boxscore that explain how New Orleans walked away victors in Week 11. 

Sean Payton’s team is hunting down the number one seed in the NFC. Navigating the next few games and doing so without their star quarterback Drew Brees will be tricky. But this Saints defense is a top ten unit in the league and has been for weeks. Moreover, Hendrickson and Jordan looked like the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL on Sunday. 

The defense is quickly becoming the best unit on the team in New Orleans. That is unheard of in the Payton and Brees era. The fact of the matter is, if this Saints defense continues to improve and play as they did against the Falcons, they will be a force down the stretch. 

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