SAINTS VS. FALCONS: Expect the Unexpected Tonight


In just a few short hours from now, the New Orleans Saints will host the Atlanta Falcons on ESPN’s Monday Night Football inside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome; in what should be one of the more memorable “Falcons Weeks” in recent memory — as the franchise commemorates the 10th year anniversary of the re-opening of the Dome back in 2006.

In the words of the late, great NFL coaching legend Marv Levy: “where else would you rather be than right here, right now?”.  

Like most long and storied rivalries, the Saints vs. Falcons rivalry has been filled with a wide array of shocking moments, and often times those moments were plays made by the least likely of performers.

Tonight’s anniversary of the courageous Steve Gleason is the perfect example of this.

Perhaps we will witness newcomers such as TommyLee Lewis, Daniel Lasco, Nate Stupar, or Erik Harris add their names to the legend of this bitter –and very underrated where storied rivalries are concerned– “blood feud”..

Today’s news that wideout Willie Snead is unlikely to play due to a foot injury undoubtedly has Saints fans on the verge of a full-fledged panic attack.

Oct 15, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Willie Snead (83) runs after a catch while defended by Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford (23) in the first quarter of their game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The porous pass defense of the Atlanta Falcons will most definitely focus their efforts upon the “Human Missile” that is Brandin Cooks — which in turn means that we should hopefully expect rookie WR Michael Thomas to step up and have a productive game.

The key to the success of the Saints passing attack this evening might very well lie with the two TALLEST targets in Drew Brees’ arsenal; Coby Fleener and Brandon Coleman.

Both of these young men tower over opponents at 6-feet-6 inches  in height, but have come up short in expectations and performance.

Fleener, the prized signing in the team’s 2016 off-season, has been rumored to be slow in grasping the playbook, and even getting accused by his harshest critics as the worst thing any athlete could get accused of being: “soft”.

Aug 20, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Coby Fleener (82) warms up before a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The opening game against the Raiders saw Fleener stay within the line of scrimmage, presumably to provide extra pass protection, while WR’s Cooks, Snead, and Thomas thrived.

Last weeks game against the Giants saw a different game plan; one that called for Fleener to be far more involved down field, yet this produced only two meaningless catches on eight targets.

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Seeing #82 being able to “break out” and make some plays with a few seam routes tonight; and thereby forcing the Atlanta safeties and linebackers to focus their coverage to compensate for his ability to do so, will be vitally important to giving the outside receivers more room to operate–as well as assisting the running game to have the success we have yet to see.

Meanwhile, don’t be completely surprised by the possibility that Coleman could be a major contributior in tonight’s game.

The young receiver has been a prime example of a player that has failed to live up to expectations . An early star of training camp lat year in 2015; he has quite clearly seemed to have “regressed” in his development — only to have yet another opportunity staring him squarely in the face this evening.

Aug 20, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans strong safety Quintin Demps (27) breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandon Coleman (16) in the first quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

With Drew Brees only having a short time to earn rapport with 1st year Saints Michael Thomas and Coby Fleener; we could very well see Coleman utilized as a first or second option in key red zone or 3rd down situations.

Whether or not Coleman is able to deliver in these moments might very well help determine if New Orleans will be celebrating their first victory of this young season.

If he is indeed able to pull it off, perhaps it will add yet another new chapter and a new name to the annals of a rivalry that has been shaped by the some of the most unexpected moments of the last half century.

Expect the unexpected…….