What We Saw: Week 9

James Conner can still be relied upon as an RB1 when needed

Falcons @ Saintsย 

Final Score: Falcons 27, Saints 25

Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)


The Atlanta Falcons came into a buoyant Caesars Superdome in New Orleans and upset the Saints 27-25 thanks to a gritty, professional veteran performance from quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons shut out the Saints in the first half and led 23-6 with just 10:39 left in the fourth quarter as Sean Payton struggled to get Trevor Siemian into a rhythm. Remarkably, the Saints came surging back with three consecutive touchdown drives to take a one-point lead with just 1:01 on the clock.

The Falcons just about squeezed over the line thanks to another superb throw by Ryan, who hit Cordarelle Patterson down the sideline for a huge gain.



As time expired in the fourth quarter, the game-winning field goal from Younghoe Koo settled the surprise. Believe it, Atlanta! Arthur Smith and this team are for real. They stay in the hunt in the NFC South.



Atlanta Falcons




Matt Ryan: 23/30, 343 yards, 2 TD, 2 sacks | 5 carries, 8 yards, TD

Feleipe Franks: 2 carries, 3 yards


Matt Ryan will not be slowed down in the twilight of his career. This performance was as good as we have seen from Ryan this season as he threw for over 330 yards for the third time in the last four games. He also threw for two touchdowns, something he has now done six times in eight games. When you consider he has lost Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley this season, that is impressive.

He started and finished the day with sensational throws deep downfield to Cordarelle Patterson. Arthur Smith is doing a fantastic job in involving the former first-round pick all over this offense, and his chemistry with Ryan has been immediate.



Ryan finished off a cagey first half with a dart to Olamide Zaccheaus for the touchdown after both teams turned the ball over on downs going for it on fourth down. Ryan was popping off quick release passes for most of the contest, trying to take away the elite Saints pass rush. Here, he executes a nice fake before finding Zaccheaus low in the end zone.


The veteran was surprisingly nimble on the ground too, using his moves on a number of occasions to move the sticks and extend drives. It was a key element in giving the Falcons life on three of their scoring drives.


He added a rare score on the ground also, jogging in from a yard out to put the cherry on top of a productive fantasy day for the wily veteran, who shrugged off a tough matchup against this Saints defense to win out.


Running Backs


Mike Davis: 9 carries, 13 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards

Cordarelle Patterson: 9 carries, 10 yards | 6 targets, 6 receptions, 126 yards


The Falcons were completely stunted on the ground, rushing 25 times for a total of just 34 yards. Just miserable. This stout Saints run defense lived up to its name, allowing a miserly 1.4 yards per carry. Mike Davis‘ dreadful time on the ground continued, failing once again to convert on fourth down.


Smith changed tact nicely, focussing on short passes to expose the linebackers in coverage. Cordarelle Patterson was key to this and he went off for 126 yards on six touches out of the backfield. This grab on third down to extend the drive was indicative of the Falcons’ game plan. The speed Patterson has is a weapon that the Falcons are ready to fire every week. He’s the only relevant fantasy back for Atlanta currently.


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Russell Gage: 8 targets, 7 receptions, 64 yards

Kyle Pitts: 7 targets, 3 receptions, 62 yards

Olamide Zaccheaus: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 58 yards, 2 TD

Hayden Hurst: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards

Tajae Sharpe: 1 target, 1 reception, 12 yards


Handy slot receiver Russell Gage led the Falcons in targets, catches and yardage as Ryan peppered his targets over the middle to execute the game plan. Without dominant receivers on the outside and the run game being stuffed, it was one of the few options for Smith to lean on in the playbook.

The fantasy day, however, belonged to unheralded wideout Olamide Zaccheaus โ€“ the former undrafted free agent, who made his name with the Virginia Cavaliers, caught two of his three catches for touchdowns as he emerged as Ryan’s first read in the red zone. His second grab was a crucial catch midway through the fourth quarter that looked to have secured his team the win.


The “Llama” as he is known, also made a key contribution on the Falcons’ first touchdown drive of the second half. A beautiful deep route from Zaccheaus was rewarded with a perfect throw from his quarterback, who finished the drive by rushing in for the score.


Kyle Pitts was tightly observed by the Saints secondary for most of the game, with the game’s best shutdown corner Marshon Lattimore being tasked with tagging the talented tight end out of Florida. Pitts only caught two more balls for 23 yards after this grab early in the game.


Ryan did a good job of utilizing the skills of his young receiving corps, with veteran tight end Hayden Hurst the only odd-man out in this offense. Hurst, a former first-round pick for the Ravens, did much more work blocking than catching passes and the move to Atlanta hasn’t really worked out from a fantasy perspective. He was stopped just short of the end zone today after a determined catch and run on a shallow-cross from Ryan.



New Orleans Saints




Trevor Siemian: 25/41, 249 yards, 2 TD, Sack, Fumble (Lost)

Taysom Hill: 2/2, 33 yards | 1 carry, 4 yards


Hampered by a number of key drops and miscues from his receivers, Trevor Siemian struggled to find any momentum in a worryingly insipid performance that what shunted into life in the fourth quarter to give the Saints an unlikely lead with a minute left on the clock.

The Saints were terrible across the offense in the first half โ€“ Tre’Quan Smith, Kenny Stills, and tight end Adam Trautman dropping easy catches and putting Siemian in a hole on nearly every drive. The Trautman drop was particularly hurtful as it occurred on fourth down in Atlanta territory.


The day then looked like it had run its course for Siemian when he was strip-sacked midway through the fourth quarter. The Falcons scooped the ball up and took it deep into Saints territory before Ryan found Zaccheaus in the end zone on the first play off the turnover to put Atlanta up 24-6.


As the Superdome expected Taysom Hill to then trot out instead of the journeyman backup quarterback, Payton showed his faith in Siemian, who responded by throwing two touchdown passes in the final eight minutes of the game. An 8-play, 66-yard touchdown drive was finished off with a perfect Siemian throw to Marquez Callaway in the back of the end zone.


On the Saints’ final drive of the game, Siemian connected with forgotten receiver Kenny Stills twice for big gains, the second being the go-ahead score with just 1:01 left in the game. This lovely back shoulder throw to the sideline was hauled in and extended into the end zone nicely by Stills.


Whether this late flourish earns Siemian the chance to lead this Saints offense going forward is uncertain, but Hill saw only two passing attempts and one carry so it is unlikely that the flame will be passed based on merit.


Running Backs


Alvin Kamara: 13 carries, 50 yards, TD | 7 targets, 4 receptions, 54 yards

Mark Ingram II: 9 carries, 43 yards | 5 targets, 5 receptions, 21 yards

Alex Armah: 2 carries, 12 yards


The woes through the air for the Saints were compounded by an equally ineffective run game in the first half. Alvin Kamara had one big run in the second quarter that was pulled by due to a holding penalty and didn’t see his first target and catch in the passing game until the third quarter. Still, it was Kamara who acted as the catalyst for the Saints offense to come back in the second half.


Kamara then finished off a touchdown drive that was benefitted by a pass interference call and a roughing the passer penalty to put the Saints at the Atlanta 6-yard line despite only completing one pass for seven yards and running one rush play for four yards.


Mark Ingram II seems to be eating into the touches for Kamara, which will worry fantasy managers. Kamara’s 17 touches in this game were his fewest since the second game of the season. Ingram was steady with his 14 touches, amassing 64 yards but failing to see any touches in the red zone.


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Tre’Quan Smith: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 53 yards

Deonte Harris: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 52 yards

Adam Trautman: 7 targets, 4 receptions, 47 yards

Kenny Stills: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 30 yards, TD

Marquez Callaway: 6 targets, 3 receptions, 25 yards, TD


The Saints receivers made up for a terrible first half littered with drops by coming alive in the final quarter or so for no explainable reason. Tre’Quan Smithย flashed his ability but once again lacked consistency, something that has been all too evident during this extended audition as the lead receiver with Michael Thomas on IR. He made this fantastic catch in the second quarter. But then failed to haul in a similar opportunity a few plays later battling tight coverage from A.J. Terrell.



The main issue was drops on third down โ€“ Kenny Stills being a culprit on this play. The former Dolphins receiver needs to pull in these balls to stay on this team. A perfect throw from Siemian went to waste, and it wasn’t the last of the night.


Stills redeemed himself late in the game, making two beautiful grabs on the Saints’ go-ahead drive. In a near carbon copy of the drop above, Stills went up and secured this lovely throw from Siemian over the cornerback outside the numbers.


It’s hard to trust any of these receivers on a week-to-week basis. One of the more steady elements has been Deonte Harris โ€“ after serving his dues on special teams and as a kick and punt returner the last few seasons, Harris has made plays week-in, week-out and today was no different. He played a key role in the three touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, drawing a big pass interference call and making this tough run and catch to set up the go-ahead score.


The biggest disappointment has been Marquez Callaway, and again today the undrafted receiver out of Tennessee didn’t really establish himself as a big threat for Siemian until the fourth quarter. His touchdown grab salvaged what was another quiet week for the receiver who many tagged for a breakout.

Another who made up for drops earlier in the game was tight end Adam Trautman. The big man did a phenomenal job of hauling in this throw and keeping hold if it after taking a hit low from behind. He is a decent tight end streamer on a weekly basis.

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