For years, the Atlanta Falcons – and most of the NFL – were terrorized by those five or so times per game when New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees would drop his shoulder and unleash that deadly deep pass that would demoralize fans and players alike.
But that wasn’t the case on Sunday, thanks to cornerbacks Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant.
The Falcons drafted both of these guys prior to the 2013 season, and they were thrown into very difficult roles in their rookie seasons. The Falcons would go 4-12, thanks in part to a sloppy defense, but the pair of corners got plenty of excellent experience during the throwaway season.
Now, they’re ready to shine.
(More: 5 GIFs from the Falcons’ win)
That was evident Sunday afternoon, when Alford and Trufant rose to the occasion, locking down the Saints’ premier receivers. Every time Brees dipped that shoulder and threw for the end zone, it fell incomplete. Most of the time, it was because either Alford or Trufant knocked it away.
Over and over, they saved the game with huge defensive plays.
Marques Colston, the Saints’ best receiver, had a good afternoon on the stat sheet. In the end, he had five catches for 110 yards.
But he didn’t get into the end zone at all, and most of his yards came on a 57-yard reception in the third quarter that ended up leading to no points, as Brees threw an interception in the end zone just a few plays later.
Atlanta’s young corners had their hands full against one of the best offenses in the league, and they kept the Saints’ receivers in check all afternoon. On several occasions, they’d bend, but they were never truly broken for the big play.
Brees finished the day with just one touchdown pass – a three-yard dump to rookie Brandin Cooks. That’s as positive a building block to start the season as Falcons fans can ask for.
Now, they have to replicate it 15 more times this regular season. And it doesn’t get any easier this weekend, when A.J. Green and the Cincinnati Bengals come calling.
Happy hunting, boys.