Saints @ Falcons
Final Score: Saints 27, Falcons 26
Writer: Matthew Theodosopoulos (@FreeMattyTee on Twitter)
What a wonky Week 1 game between two teams that hate each other. After leading for most of the game, the Falcons let victory be snatched right from their fingertips by Michael Thomas and the Saints. Cordarrelle Patterson showed that last season was no fluke, providing most of the offense for the Falcons and moving the ball superbly all game. Jarvis Landry had a monster debut for his hometown team, providing a great safety valve for quarterback Jameis Winston. This game also featured two first-round rookie wide receivers; Drake London for the Falcons and Chris Olave for the Saints
New Orleans Saints
Jameis Winston: 23/34, 269 yards, 2 TD | 2 carries, 9 yards
You probably weren’t happy if you started Jameis Winston and checked your score at halftime. But all things considered, Jameis ended the day with a fine enough stat line, picking up two touchdown passes in the second half. He shook off an early injury scare that saw backup Andy Dalton warming up on the sideline, then went out and led the Saints to a difficult, divisional week one victory. It may not have been the prettiest game of all time from the Saints, but Jameis and the Saints were able to squeak by the Falcons. That’s all you can really ask of Jameis Winston.
Taysom Hill: 4 carries, 81 yards, TD | 1 target, 1 reception, 2 yards
Alvin Kamara: 9 carries, 39 yards | 4 targets, 3 receptions, 7 yards
Mark Ingram: 4 carries, 22 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 1 yard
As far as Alvin Kamara is concerned, I’m not too worried. The Saints were playing from behind for most of the game and could not afford to run the ball all that much, forced to rely on the passing game instead. Kamara had a rough fantasy game, sure, but this should not be the norm. He only touched the ball 12 times on 13 opportunities and did not score a touchdown. The Falcons had him mostly bottled up on the ground, but his game would look significantly different with a touchdown.
Now, Taysom Hill certainly had an interesting game. After being labeled as a tight end during the offseason, Taysom lined up as a quarterback a couple of times to take direct snaps, one of which was a monster 57-yard run. He would also add a touchdown on the ground. Currently, Taysom appears to be back in his WEAPON role, being used wherever he can to give the Saints an advantage. He is somebody to monitor, especially if given tight end/quarterback eligibility. Mark Ingram probably only presents value with an injury to Alvin Kamara; a standard handcuff role.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Jarvis Landry: 9 targets, 7 receptions, 114 yards
Michael Thomas: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 57 yards, 2 TD
Juwan Johnson: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 43 yards
Chris Olave: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 41 yards
Deonte Harty: 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards
There are two big ones for this category. Jarvis Landry was getting all kinds of attention from Jameis all day, being targeted nine times and catching seven of those to the tune of 114 yards. On both touchdown drives, Landry caught a pass and was stopped within the 10-yard line (once at the nine, once at the three), so while he may not have gotten into the endzone, this is an incredibly promising start to his Saints career. He looks to be a solid PPR contributor.
The other big nugget is that Michael Thomas is finally healthy and back on an NFL field. Although he had an empty box score at halftime, Thomas would catch two touchdowns in the second half on top of 5 catches and 57 yards. He looks like an immediate red zone monster, with touchdowns against stud cornerback AJ Terrell. Chris Olave may take some time, but it was a promising first game for the young rookie. He caught all three of his targets for 41 yards and Jameis seemed to have trust in him. The continued development of their relationship should only mean improvement.
Marcus Mariota: 20/33, 215 yards | 12 carries, 72 yards, TD
Marcus Mariota‘s Falcons debut was not ideal. Leading for most of the game, Mariota did his best to game manage the situation, making safe passes and not throwing any interceptions. Running the ball was a different story. Mariota rushed the ball 12 times for 72 yards and a touchdown, but ball security was clearly an issue as he fumbled the ball two times with one resulting in a turnover. He didn’t look great, but by no means did he look terrible, either. That said, I would expect to see rookie Desmond Ridder at some point in the near future if Atlanta fails to secure wins.
Cordarrelle Patterson: 22 carries, 120 yards, 1 TD | 5 targets, 3 receptions, 16 yards
Avery Williams: 2 carries, 7 yards
Damien Williams: 2 carries, 2 yards
Anybody who was worried about rookie Tyler Allgeier taking work from Cordarrelle Patterson had those fears put to rest before kickoff, as Algeier was a healthy scratch for the game. Truthfully, this was entirely the CPatt show. Patterson looked very good today against the Saints and the Falcons appeared to trust him completely, feeding him 22 carries and involving him in the passing game. He was a significant part of the Falcons’ offense and looks like a solid RB2.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Drake London: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 74 yards
Olamide Zaccheaus: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 49 yards, Fumble
KhaDarel Hodge: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 38 yards
Kyle Pitts: 7 targets, 2 receptions, 19 yards
Anthony Firkser: 2 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards
Parker Hesse: 2 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards
Elephant in the room; what the heck happened to Kyle Pitts? While the tight end mismatch was targeted seven times, he only managed two receptions for 19 yards. Similar to Allen Robinson‘s rough start for the Rams Thursday night, it could just be that it’s his first game with new quarterback Marcus Mariota. I do believe that the Saints had Marshon Lattimore on Pitts quite a bit, so that is not helpful, and the Saints are typically very tough against tight ends as is. But if you drafted Kyle Pitts, you drafted him to be great, and this is a major letdown. Too early to panic, but slightly concerning. Drake London turned in a stellar Week 1, catching five of seven targets for 74 yards. He did not look like a rookie playing in his first ever professional game, and the target volume is great to see. London looks like he can be a decent WR2 soon enough.