SCOUTING REPORT: The Saints know how quickly the Falcons’ Matt Ryan gets rid of the ball — so now it’s all about making him go even faster
The thing that stands out to the New Orleans Saints when watching Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is how quickly he gets rid of the ball.
They say his quick trigger is the reason he’s so difficult to bring down, and it can cause problems when trying to cover Atlanta’s receivers.
“If you just look at his numbers, he throws in a real good rhythm and (with) anticipation,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I think it is important that the looks are different and you are able to maybe eliminate some of that timing, but he’s got real good awareness to what you are doing coverage-wise, man or zone, where he wants to go with the football. So that clock operates very efficiently.”
Looking at raw numbers, you would not be convinced Ryan is doing anything special when it comes to getting rid of the ball. According to Pro Football Focus, he has taken an average of 2.64 seconds to throw the ball this season, the 13th-fastest time in the NFL.
And when the Saints played the Falcons in Week 1, Ryan took an average of 2.75 seconds to throw the ball, his second-slowest time of the season.
But raw numbers might not tell an accurate story. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers ranks 24th in the NFL with an average time to throw of 2.89, yet many consider him to have one of the fastest releases in the league.
What these numbers do not take into account is the situation.
A quarterback can accumulate a longer time to throw simply by taking the time he is given and allowing routes to develop.
What the Saints likely mean when discussing Ryan’s quick trigger is that he knows when to get rid of the ball and doesn’t wait around long when facing pressure. This notion is supported by the fact that Ryan only takes 3.04 seconds to get sacked, which is the third-fastest time in the league behind Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
So when the Saints host the Falcons, the goal will be to get after Ryan as quickly as possible and force him into quick decisions.
With a young, revamped secondary, this will be imperative.
Know your matchups
Statistically speaking, the only defense worse than the New Orleans Saints defense is the one taking the field for Atlanta on Sundays.
The Falcons feature the only defense in the NFL that allows more than 400 yards per game, including 292 passing yards per contest. Add it all up, and Atlanta is allowing 26.4 points per game.
There will be opportunities for the Saints to move the ball this week — just as there were during the meeting between these teams in Week 1.
Drew Brees passed the ball with little resistance in that contest, racking up 333 yards through the air. Atlanta had no answer for wide receiver Marques Colston (five catches, 110 yards) or tight end Jimmy Graham (eight for 82).
The problem, as it often has been this season, is that New Orleans committed untimely turnovers. Brees threw a costly interception, and Colston coughed up the ball near the end zone.
If the Saints can protect the ball and move it at the same pace, they should have an opportunity to win the game — as they did in the 37-34 overtime loss in Week 1.
The problem, of course, is actually making it happen.
Three and out
1. FREDERICK WATCH: Terrence Frederick put forth an admirable effort in his first start at cornerback last week. But he was not tested often. We should get a better idea of what he’s capable of this week.
2 VACCARO’S ROLE: Kenny Vaccaro went back to the role he filled as a rookie last week. But with Jamarca Sanford battling a hamstring injury, Vaccaro might be forced to move back to strong safety this week.
3 FASTEST TO 30: With both of these defenses struggling to make stops, this game might turn into a race to 30 points. Can the Saints keep up and limit the mistakes enough to finish first?
QUESTIONABLE: T Terron Armstead (neck), S Jamarca Sanford (hamstring), DL Akiem Hicks (hamstring)
-- All three were hurt in the Saints’ win Monday night at Chicago. Neither Sanford nor Armstead would’ve participated Wednesday had there been team drills, and they were sidelined for practice Thursday and Friday, which isn’t good for their prospects of playing. Hicks’ status was the same Wednesday and Thursday, but he was upgraded to limited Friday. If necessary, Bryce Harris would start in place of Armstead; Kenny Vaccaro for Sanford; and Tyrunn Walker would get a good bit of Hicks’ snaps.
QUESTIONABLE: WR Julio Jones (hip), G Jon Asamoah (back), S William Moore (foot)
PROBABLE: CB Josh Wilson (hand), WR Roddy White (knee), WR Harry Douglas (foot)
Ramon Antonio Vargas: Saints 38, Falcons 31
Both teams have productive offenses and porous defenses. The Saints offense is more productive, and their defense gives up fewer yards than the Falcons’ does. Those two facts mark the difference in this one, and the Saints avoid losing five in a row at home for the first time since they went 1-15 in 1980.
Nick Underhill: Saints 31, Falcons 24
Neither team features a staunch defense. So the expectation is that yards will come in bunches and both quarterbacks will have the ball flying through the air. In a game like this, it likely will be about which team reaches 30 points the fastest. If New Orleans can protect the ball, it should win the game.
Scott Rabalais: Saints 35, Falcons 34
Let’s approach this logically. The Saints have lost four straight at home while winning three straight on the road. They had no answer for stopping the Falcons passing game the first time they played, and here they are again with the season on the line. In what looks like another close, high-scoring affair, maybe the deciding factor is that the Falcons owe them one.