The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov preview Falcons-Saints on Monday Night Football by getting into the Falcons offensive rhythm and how to fix the defense.
FLOWERY BRANCH — After posting a thrilling 35-28 victory over the Oakland Raiders, the Falcons (1-1) are set to face the rival New Orleans Saints (0-2) at 8:30 p.m Monday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
(The Falcons are one ricocheted touchdown grab by Justin Hardy away from being 0-2, but hey, the Duke has to bounce your way at some point over the 16-game season.)
Here are five things to know about the Falcons on Wednesday:
1. The return of Schofield. The Falcons are likely to re-sign linebacker O’Brien Schofield today. He had 28 tackles, four tackles for losses, two sacks and 13 quarterback hits last season with the Falcons. He over estimated his value over the offseason when the Falcons, Jets and Patriots showed interest in signing him.
Also, defensive end Nordly Capi and cornerback Devonte Johnson had their practice squad contracts terminated on Tuesday. The Falcons held tryouts for five players on Tuesday. Tackle Carter Bykowski (Iowa State), defensive tackle A.J. Francis (Maryland), defensive tackle Justin Hamilton (Louisiana-Lafayette), tackle Kyle Roberts (Nevada) and defensive end Davis Tull (Chattanooga).
2. Freeman on Julio. Falcons running back Devonta Freeman expects wide receiver Julio Jones, who has a calf injury, to answer the bell against the Saints on Monday. “He’s a competitive player,” Freeman said on his weekly radio appearance on The Dukes & Bell show on 92.9 The Game. “I’ve seen him injured in so many places and he’s just got that extra fight in him. . . If he’s on one leg, he’s going to go out there and fight for you.”
3. Fix this defense. The Falcons coaches were certainly at work trying to fix the defense with the extra time to prepare for the Monday Night Football game against the Saints. The defense has given up EIGHT touchdowns drives of 75 yards or more. They have only had four three-and-outs and have forced just nine punts over 23 possessions. Of the eight long scoring drives, four of them were aided by penalties: Adrian Clayborn jumping offsides on third down, Robert Alford being called for unnecessary roughness, Alford on a pass interference and Dashon Goldson and Justin Hardy miscommunication which led to a 12 man on the field penalty. The highlights have been Desmond Trufant’s interception and the defense stopping the Raiders on a fourth-and-2. Two drives ended as time expired. There has been one made field goal and one missed field goal.
4. Take Uber to the Georgia Dome. The Falcons have continued their partnership with Uber. Two Uber zones have been created to help alleviate traffic congestion and allows for easy drop-off and pick up for Uber customers. New Uber riders can receive $20 off their first ride to/or from the game by entering the code ATLFalcons.
5. Air award nominee. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is a finalist for this week’s FedEx Air player of the week award for his play against Oakland. Ryan completed 26 of 34 passes (76.5 percent) for 396 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in the end zone. He finished with a passer rating of 131.5.
Ryan is up against Carolina’s Cam Newton and San Diego’s Philip Rivers.
Newton completed 24 of 40 passes (60 percent) for 353 yards and four touchdowns for a 111.8 passer rating in the Panthers’ 46-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Rivers completed 17 of 24 passes (70.8 percent) for 220 yards and four touchdowns for a 138.9 passer rating in the Chargers’ 38-14 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Every week, following the Monday Night Football game, through Thursday at 3 p.m., fans can visit NFL.com/FedEx or tweet using #AirandGround and the nominees’ last name to cast their vote.
FedEx and the NFL will announce the winners every Thursday afternoon and then FedEx will award a $2,000 donation in the winning players’ names to The USO.
GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24