rain
Tuesday May 26th, 2015 3:51AM

Falcons know they can't afford mistakes vs. Brees

By The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Atlanta Falcons are ready to prove they aren't defenseless against New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.

Since Brees joined the Saints in 2006, Atlanta is 2-10 in the NFC South series, and the Falcons know why.

Brees hasn't just beaten Atlanta with his right arm. His footwork, field vision and game preparation are just as lethal.

"That's why we've got to finish plays," Falcons safety William Moore said. "That's the biggest thing. You will think the play's over, and Drew will step up and hit something big."

Maybe when the Falcons (8-0) visit New Orleans (3-5) on Sunday, Atlanta will have a better chance at success now that Mike Nolan is their first-year defensive coordinator.

Atlanta has dropped three straight in the series, and its blowout loss in Week 16 last December at the Superdome was one reason the Falcons weren't exactly disappointed when Nolan's predecessor, Brian VanGorder, left for Auburn.

Nolan, now in his 14th year as an NFL coordinator, says that Brees not only has great players around him, but adds that the record-setting quarterback is also blessed with an elite intangible - pocket presence.

Nolan respects Brees' innate ability to avoid sacks and pressure by knowing which way the pocket is moving while keeping his eyes downfield.

"Whether it's to step up or move to the left or the right and to avoid it when a guy's coming, he's not looking at you," Nolan said. "The good ones look down the field. They're not thinking about all the stuff going on around them, but they have an ability to kind of move where the pocket allows them to stay alive. He does a great job with that."

This season started out tough for Brees in the pocket. With coach Sean Payton suspended for the season and unable to help New Orleans correct its protection problems, Brees was sacked an uncharacteristically high 12 times in the first five games.

During the last three games, however, Brees has been sacked a combined three times. Not surprisingly, the Saints have won two of three.

Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux is planning on Sunday's matchup being as tough as any Atlanta's defense will face. He remembers a 2010 loss at the Georgia Dome in which the Falcons had 10 free runs at Brees, but finished with just one sack.

"His pocket presence is better than most quarterbacks we've faced this year, so it will be a challenge for us and particularly our young guys, Babineaux said. "Our hands are going to be full."

Under Nolan, Atlanta is hardly conventional with its schemes, dropping defensive ends deep in coverage, using a four-man front with three defensive tackles, moving four-time Pro Bowl end John Abraham from side to side and deploying disguised blitzes.

Despite his impressive numbers in 12 series games - eight 300-yard games and 10 games with at least two touchdowns - Brees expects to see some different looks from the Falcons.

"Even though it's a new system, everybody does their offseason study," Brees said. "They might acquire a guy here and there that brings a different strength. You definitely can see some new twists to what they're doing. They're playing extremely well."

In winning their third straight over Atlanta last December, the Saints kept Brees on the field in the fourth quarter of a blowout victory at the Superdome. By finishing the game, Brees set the NFL single-season record for yards passing.

Far worse for the Falcons was getting knocked out the division race. They had to settle for a wild-card playoff berth and were crushed two weeks later at the New York Giants.

DeCoud said Atlanta won't focus on the past. There's too much at stake, particularly having to cover New Orleans' route combinations in which they might send Devery Henderson and Lance Moore deep, send Graham over the middle, have Colston on a slant pattern and running back Pierre Thomas ready for a screen or short pass in the flats.

"On first and second down, they'll try a tricky play-action and steal something over the top, but then on third down they get into their concepts," DeCoud said. "If you study enough film - and even games that aren't in our breakdown of what we're given this week - you can get a feel for what they're going to do."

But just because they know what's coming doesn't necessarily help the Falcons.

"Our hands are going to be full," Babineaux said. "We just have to make sure we wrap up. He's very slick. He can move around and get away from a lot of pressure. We've got to make sure when we're there that we wrap up and get that sack."
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Tech beats Southern California in Sun Bowl
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Georgia Tech beat Southern California 21-7 on Monday in the Sun Bowl.
5:54PM ( 2 years ago )
Top 10 sports stories of the year: 2012 one for the history books
2012 has been all things to all people in the sports world. The last 12 months have run the gamut of emotions and given fans and spectators much to awe, rue and everything in between.
2:33PM ( 2 years ago )
College Football Hall to break ground in Atlanta
Groundbreaking for the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will be Jan. 28 and the museum is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
2:15PM ( 2 years ago )
Sports
Williams, Horford pace Hawks past Indiana
Lou Williams had 21 points and a career-high 12 assists, Al Horford added 20 points and the Atlanta Hawks won their fourth straight, 109-100 over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.
10:19PM ( 2 years ago )
Gwinnett wallops Greenville, 6-2
Five different Gladiators racked up multiple points, as Gwinnett dominated the Greenville Road Warriors 6-2 Saturday night at the BI-LO Center to move into a tie atop the South Division with Greenville.
10:05PM ( 2 years ago )
Teague leads Hawks past Cavaliers, 102-94
Jeff Teague scored a career-high 27 points and the Atlanta Hawks scored the game's final nine points to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-94 on Friday night.
10:26PM ( 2 years ago )
Professional Sports
Baseball: GHS, Greenbrier set for one-game showdown for AAAAA yitle
Few expected a sweep. And as if on cue, Gainesville and Greenbrier split the first two games of their best-of-three Class AAAAA state championship series Monday at Greenbrier.
12:00PM ( 8 hours from now )
University of North Georgia softball team wins national championship
Junior pitcher Courtney Poole struck out four while giving up just two hits to lead the University of North Georgia softball team to a 5-0 win against Dixie State and the program's first national title.
By UNG Athletic Communications
2:51AM ( 1 hour ago )
LeBron, Cavaliers limping their way toward NBA Finals
One win from taking the Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals, and one step closer to a title he covets more than any other, James leaned against a padded wall on Monday and hardly resembled basketball's most undeniable force.
12:48AM ( 3 hours ago )
Homer happy: Dodgers hit 3 in 8th to beat Braves 6-3
Andre Ethier, Alex Guerrero and Jimmy Rollins each homered in the eighth inning, rallying the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 6-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Monday night.
11:36PM ( 4 hours ago )
Big Red championship vets hope Gainesville can get back to promised land this week
Wayne Vickery coached his way to five state championships with Gainesville baseball -- and the outgoing Gainesville High athletic director sees similarities between one of those title winners and the 2015 squad.
3:00PM ( 12 hours ago )