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The Falcons' offense sizzled and the defense did just enough to win a 45-32 shootout with the Saints

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Both offenses played well, but Atlanta's defense stepped up with a few key plays to help the Falcons finish on top.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It was clear on Monday night as the Falcons faced the Saints in the Superdome that Atlanta’s offense has improved and the New Orleans defense is still a work in progress. The Falcons looked unstoppable on offense, and the Saints looked ineffective on defense, which allowed the Falcons to win 45-32 despite a mostly subpar showing from the Atlanta defense.

Going into Monday night's game, the Falcons ranked at the top of the league for passing yards per game and total offensive yards per game, and they’ve reached that mark with limited contributions from star receiver Julio Jones, who finished the day with just one reception for 16 yards.

The New Orleans defense is ranked 31st in the league, allowing 451.5 yards per game so far this season, and the Falcons were able to take advantage of that, finishing the game with 457 total yards. They're also missing many key defenders due to injuries, and it showed on Monday night.

Atlanta’s succeeding through the air because Matt Ryan is spreading the ball around. He hit eight different receivers on Monday, and the balance of the running game helped, too. Devonta Freeman ran for 152 yards, and Tevin Coleman added 42 yards and got into the end zone three times.

The Falcons’ weakness lies on the defensive side of the ball, and that was evident against New Orleans. Atlanta let Brees throw for 376 yards and three touchdowns, and the Saints were able to rush for 115 yards and a touchdown.

Turnovers ended up making a difference for the Falcons, with a fumbled punt return opportunity leading to an Atlanta touchdown early. A pick six by rookie linebacker Deion Jones helped seal the game for the Falcons.

The Falcons have also struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks, but they sacked Brees twice on Monday. One came on a corner blitz from Pro Bowler Desmond Trufant, and the other was dealt by veteran addition Dwight Freeney.

Brees and the offense played well, and the Falcons had trouble containing tight end Coby Fleener in particular. Atlanta’s offense was able to play well enough to make up for its defensive shortcomings, and the Saints' offense could not.