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Monday, December 27, 2010

Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Falcons Forget Short Pass; Drew Brees and Saints Don't

Lost in all of the stuff about how Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Roddy White's Twitter Tweets fueled the New Orleans Saints to their 17 to 14 victory over the Dirty Birds tonight at The Georgia Dome, was one fact: when it mattered most, Matt Ryan and the Falcons forgot the short game.

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton showed once again why he's the NFL's best play caller not name Peyton Manning, Andy Reid, or Bill O’Brien of the Patroits. With just over 8 minutes on the clock he and Quarterback Drew Brees directed a 13 play, 90 yard drive that featured six straight passes. The last pass was a touchdown to rookie Tight End Jimmy Graham that Head Coach Mike Smith and the Falcons should have seen coming: the pass to the big tight end lined up all alone over the small cornerback, where the Saints throw a quick look-in pass within five yards of the goal line. Something they did in Super Bowl 44 against the Colts.

All of Brees passes were of the short variety.

By contrast, when the Falcons got the ball with a whopping 3 minutes left, and needing only to get into field goal range, they got greedy. The first play was a broken-field run by Matt Ryan for about 20 yard, then the drive stalled and they went three-and-out, as Ryan tried to throw down field to score, rather than short to work the clock and move the chains.

If that series were replayed and the Falcons Smith said "OK, Zennie. Let's see what you can do," I'd have used Ryan's legs on a planned bootleg to open the series, worked a set of short passes off play action to Falcons Running Back Michael Turner, then called the roll-out pass to the left to Roddy White. Work short. Work the ball.

That's what the Saints did, and in a series so devastatingly perfect, Bill Walsh was smiling down from Heaven.

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