Around the NFC South: Falcons and Saints fall in their openers


Atlanta looking to bounce back

After major injuries to starters Greg Olsen and Daryl Williams, quarterback Cam Newton is now looking at the possibility of playing without his starting tight end and right tackle for a substantial amount of time. That's a tough spot to be in heading into a division matchup on the road against Atlanta.

But the Falcons are dealing with major injuries of their own. Linebacker Deion Jones was placed on IR on Tuesday with a foot injury. This comes after is was announced on Monday that safety Keanu Neal will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. Second-year safety Damontae Kazee is expected to step in.

Atlanta is looking to avoid an 0-2 start to the season after suffering an 18-12 defeat at the home of the defending Super Bowl champions. But head coach Dan Quinn felt that his defense played exceptionally well against the high-powered Eagles.

"They're a very competitive group. They're making strides, and I'm very excited about where this defense can go," Quinn said.

Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel's group held Philadelphia to zero yards in total offense in the first quarter while Jones' fourth quarter interception helped set up Atlanta's first and only touchdown.

Running back Tevin Coleman scored the lone Atlanta touchdown and finished with 19 yards on nine carries. Quarterback Matt Ryan went 21-of-43 for 251 yards with one interception, while wide receiver Julio Jones hauled in 10 catches for 169 yards. The Falcons converted just 4-of-15 third-down attempts and found the end zone on just one of their five red zone trips.

Although Atlanta's offense struggled, Carolina defensive coordinator Eric Washington said he's not making too much of one poor performance.

"They will always get the highest benefit of the doubt from me," Washington said of the Falcons offense. "We know that when they get in that part of the field, they're capable of producing as many points as anybody. We just have to be ready."

Look for the red zone to be an area both teams want to improve on heading into Week 2.


Tampa Bay and New Orleans light up the scoreboard

Elsewhere in the division, the Buccaneers and Saints engaged in an all-out battle inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday. Coming into the game, the Saints were widely projected to take the Week 1 matchup, with every major media outlet predicting an easy win for quarterback Drew Brees and New Orleans at home.

An action-packed first half ended with Tampa Bay leading 31-24.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, starting in place of suspended quarterback Jameis Winston, connected with wide receivers Mike Evans and Desean Jackson to put the Bucs up 48-24. But the Saints wouldn't go quietly.

Two fourth quarter touchdowns from running back Alvin Kamara gave New Orleans life, but Fitzpatrick sealed the win in the closing minutes with a scramble past the sticks on third-and-long.

Brees put on a show, completing 37-of-45 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns, but 40 points weren't enough to defeat the upset-minded Bucs in one of the most surprising outcomes of opening weekend.

Next up for the Saints, a matchup with the Browns at home. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, will host the Eagles.