Saints aim to continue improvement vs. Falcons
The New Orleans Saints improved from Week 1 to Week 2 and that enabled them to follow a season-opening loss with a win.
But they admit they still have a long way to go as they prepare to face the Falcons in an NFC South showdown Sunday in Atlanta.
After giving up 48 points in a seven-point loss to Tampa Bay to start the season, the Saints contained the Cleveland Browns offense much better in a 21-18 victory last week.
The offense, though, wasn't nearly as effective against the Browns (275 yards) as it was against the Buccaneers (475). Of those 750 yards, only 105 have come from the rushing attack.
"In the first game, obviously we were doing a lot of good things in the passing game so it's not like we couldn't run the ball," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "But we kind of got in a situation where we had to score quickly and score a lot.
"This last game, I would say it was not one of our better run running games efficiency wise, but we did have a couple of good ones at the end of the game."
The Falcons got more bad news on the injury front this week and it could not have come at a worse time.
Atlanta is already without safety Keanu Neal for the season because of a knee injury. It will also be without middle linebacker Deion Jones for at least another six weeks while he's on the injured reserve list after foot surgery.
Now the Falcons will be without starting left guard Andy Levitre, who was lost for the season because of a triceps injury and placed on injured reserve.
"After receiving the test results on Andy's injury from Sunday's game, it has been determined that he will miss the remainder of the season with a triceps injury," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said.
The move means Wes Schweitzer, who started at right guard last season, will move into the lineup. Schweitzer took Levitre's place when he was injured Sunday.
Schweitzer battled with Brando Fusco for the starting job at right guard, with Fusco, a free-agent signee formerly with the San Francisco 49ers, winning the position.
Quinn said he club is confident moving forward with Schweitzer as the starter.
"When Wes stepped in for Andy, we certainly knew what to expect for a guy who has really put the time in," Quinn said. "This summer the battle that he had in him with Brandon to get going, we knew if he was going to go in the game he would be ready."
The Falcons are awaiting word on the status of defensive end Takk McKinley (groin) and Derrick Shelby (groin). They were both injured last week against Carolina.
"We're going to give these guys as much time as they need to get ready," Quinn said. "When they can start doing things that they do, we'll adjust accordingly."
If either or both can't go, the Falcons will probably use Steven Means in their rotation. Means signed with Atlanta last week and he was inactive for the Carolina game.
"I'd be comfortable (with Means) and the reason why is during his time here, he's really put the work in," Quinn said. "We'll just take it as it goes."
Running back Devonta Freeman is expected to miss his second straight game with a right knee contusion.
For the Saints, defensive tackle Tyeler Davison, who missed last week's game because of a foot injury suffered in the season opener, did not practice Wednesday. Wide receiver Tommylee Lewis, who injured his left knee in Sunday's game and did not return, was held out of practice and walked through the locker room with difficulty while wearing a brace on the knee. He was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. That means receiver Cameron Meredith, who has been a healthy inactive each of the first two weeks, could play Sunday. He was signed as a veteran free agent with the expectation that he would be the No. 3 receiver behind Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. even though he was recovering from a serious knee surgery. Meredith was limited in training camp and the preseason, but is healthy enough to play.
Sunday's game will be the 98th regular-season meeting. The Falcons lead series, 51-46, including a 27-22 edge in Atlanta. The home team won both encounters last season. Atlanta has won three of the last four meetings.
Updated September 20, 2018