NEW ORLEANS —
Whether the Falcons have been playoff worthy or not, they haven't had much luck beating the Saints since 2006, when Payton and quarterback Drew Brees joined forces in New Orleans. The Saints have won 11 of the last 14 meetings, and Atlanta fans don't need to be reminded where last season's 13-3 Falcon squad saw its eight-game season-opening winning streak end. Only one of the Falcons' three victories since '06 came in the Superdome, and that took overtime in 2010.
"It is pretty one-sided, isn't it?" Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette said. "Maybe they're scared to come in the dome, I don't know. But we beat them at their house, too."
This game marks the first real test for the Saints' new defense under first-year coordinator Rob Ryan. Payton hired Ryan after last season, when New Orleans gave up a league-record 7,042 yards and ranked 31st in points allowed. Ryan has scrapped the Saints' old 4-3 front and installed a 3-4 scheme filled with disguised blitzes, hoping this approach is more like the one that worked when the Saints were a playoff team from 2009-11. If the new product is effective against an offense like Atlanta's they'll know they're on to something. They'll have to find a way to stop not only Matt Ryan, but receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, as well as tight end Tony Gonzalez and running back Steven Jackson.
"We're eager to see if this new plan works as well as we think it's going to," Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "This preseason has been very encouraging for us. We've got guys at positions they enjoy. ... We're very optimistic, but optimism never won you a game."