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Toughness, not finesse defines recent Saints success against Falcons

Pierre Thomas and the New Orleans Saints have often been the more physical team in recent years against their arch-rivals, the Atlanta Falcons (Photo: Parker Waters).Pierre Thomas and the New Orleans Saints have often been the more physical team in recent years against their arch-rivals, the Atlanta Falcons (Photo: Parker Waters).

You can't wait for Sunday, can you?

Falcons vs Saints.

The game, one of the best rivalries in the NFL, features two quarterbacks who combined for 75 touchdown passes in 2012.

Drew Brees has had the better of Matt Ryan.

Since the 2009 season, New Orleans is 6-2 against Atlanta.

Also, if not for a Garrett Hartley miss on a 29-yard field goal at the Superdome in 2010, the Saints could easily be 7-1 against Atlanta since that Super Bowl season. Hartley's miss came in overtime.

There's a reason why New Orleans has had Atlanta's number. One that Sean Payton is stressing this week with his team.

The Saints have out-toughed the Falcons.

The inability of the Falcons to sustain a running attack is the big reason why they lost to the 49ers in last season's NFC championship game. On the flip side, San Francisco rushed 29 times for 149 yards. Atlanta rushed 23 times for 81 yards.

The Falcons were held scoreless in the second half.

Atlanta reacted quickly to address this problem in the offseason. The Falcons brought in former Rams running back Steven Jackson as their feature back. Jackson, who turned 30 in July, has rushed for 10,138 yards in 9 NFL seasons.

The Falcons brought in Steven Jackson to beat their chief rival in the NFC South.

That's right. Your New Orleans Saints.

The numbers tell a story.

In 2012, the Saints beat the Falcons, 31-27, at the Superdome. New Orleans rushed for 148 yards, Atlanta 46.

In a 2011 win at Atlanta, the Saints rushed for 164 yards, the Falcons 35.

In Atlanta's 2010 win at the Superdome, the Falcons outgained the Saints on the ground 202 yards to 43.

The past few seasons, as the Saints dominated the rivalry, there's been a lot of chatter about why.

One theory, the Saints are "just in the Falcons head." Whatever that means. There's no doubt New Orleans has confidence against Atlanta. But, it has nothing to do with mind games or anything else.

Confidence in football comes from being able to win at the line of scrimmage.

Alabama has won two of the last three BCS titles because of its ability to dominate at the point of attack.

J.T. Curtis has won over 500 high school games because he understands what wins.

Even passing guru Sean Payton won a Super Bowl when the Saints became a top tier running club.

So this week, Payton has showed his team the numbers. His message to his team is simple: The reason we beat those guys is we are tougher.

Make sure you are the tougher team on Sunday. The game will be billed as an aerial circus. Reality says it will be more like a good ole fashioned NFC South street fight.


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