The Saints take on the Falcons in the Georgia dome this weekend in their last outing before the Thanksgiving holiday. If your family is like mine, Thanksgiving is one of the most important celebrations of the year. There are weeks of preparation – shopping, cooking, getting the guest list finalized – all culminating in a festive, highly caloric meal, ceremoniously commenced by the carving of the bird.
At most dinners, the carving honor is bestowed to only the most worthy…the one person with enough experience to not screw it up. Because let’s face it, it’s the bird that makes or breaks the Thanksgiving dinner.
Not unlike this weekend. In a part of the season when the Saints need to breakaway from their inconsistent play and go on a roll, this game against Atlanta is a make or break game. We are fairly evenly matched against the Falcons. In the balance, the Saints have the edge on offense, but are fairly evenly matched on total defense. However, their rush defense is much better than their pass defense. Therefore, the keys to the game are:
Come out passing. Use our pass game to open up the run game. We will not be able to establish the run early on against this defense unless we force them to play off the line. Thankfully, we have a surgeon at QB that we hope will carve up the secondary with his brilliant pass game.
Defense needs to come out strong, aggressive and physical. We have been light on forcing turnovers – be ball hawks. Not unlike that uninvited guest that shows up late, doesn’t bring anything, and eats more than his/her fair share!
Pressure the QB. Matt Ryan has a completion rate of 61%. But he has been sacked 19 times (one sack for every 15th pass attempt). Get more pressure, more sacks, more errant throws. What would Thanksgiving dinner be without your grandmother pressuring about getting the Turkey in the oven…or was that only my grandmother?
While Thanksgiving dinner conjures up Norman Rockwell images of family and friends dining on a perfectly cooked meal and eloquently expressing thanks, the reality is that it is normally far from perfect. I have those same expectations for tomorrow. We will make mistakes. We will not be perfect. But if we can play our game, and play it well, we should come out on top. We have to be careful of the giving up the big plays and turnovers – or in this metaphor, the family brawl or drunken guest.
All I can say is tomorrow is not Thanksgiving, and the only way to eat “dirty bird” is charred.