Panic swept through Falcons nation upon hearing that Asante Samuel was unable to take the field on Sunday against the Saints, but rookies Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford held their own against Drew Brees.
Desmond Trufant was slated to start regardless of Samuel's injury, and played 68 of 69 defensive snaps. Drew Brees targeted Trufant five times, resulting in four receptions for 42 yards. Trufant had one pass deflection, and allowed just 10 yards after the catch, which is very encouraging.
Robert Alford played 38 snaps, and was targeted by Brees four times, but allowed just one reception, and also managed to intercept a Drew Brees pass intended for Marques Colston. Neither Alford nor Trufant allowed any passing touchdowns.
It must be particularly exciting for Alford, who hails from southern Louisiana, to have intercepted Drew Brees. Alford was a Saints fan prior to being drafted by the Falcons, and in his Rookie Diary on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website, Alford shared that he, along with his family, shunned the Saints.
But once I was drafted by the Falcons, all of the Saints fans that I had in my family, everybody burnt all of the hats, T-shirts and jerseys that they had. - Robert Alford
You have to love that.
Trufant and Alford rising to the occasion against the Saints had broader implications, because a defense must maintain adequate pass coverage to give the pass rush time to work, and Atlanta's defense managed to sack Drew Brees twice, hit him once, and hurry him six times.
Drew Brees is widely acknowledged as a top-five quarterback in the National Football League, and the Saints finished a lackluster 2012 first in the league in passing offense with an average of 312.3 passing yards per game despite finishing the season with a record of 7-9. As a matter of fact, the last time the Saints did not finish a season in the top five for passing offense was 2005. For two rookies to perform so admirably in their first regular season action against an established quality passing offense is an indication that Thomas Dimitroff's eye for talent was spot on with these two young players. The coaching staff also deserves credit for their level of preparation.
Yes, we all hate losing to the Saints, but the rookie cornerbacks exceeded expectations and were a bright spot in yesterday's loss. What did you think about their performances?