Saints coach Sean Payton preaches the importance of self-scouting to avoid predictable patterns.That could be one reason why he doesn't expect quarterback Drew Brees to keep throwing to receiver Michael Thomas quite as often as he has through the season's first two weeks Stitched Ricardo Allen Jersey
, when Thomas has racked up more receptions than the rest of New Orleans' receivers and tight ends combined."Part of it is just, here we are, two weeks in," began Payton, whose team visits Atlanta on Sunday."I think that you're going to see those numbers change some. And I think historically, offensively with Drew, a lot of different guys have been involved in the passing game 鈥?and I think that will be the same case this year."Thomas has 28 catches, the most of any NFL receiver in the first two weeks of a season, surpassing Andre Rison's 26 in 1994 with the Falcons.Running back Alvin Kamara is second in catches with 15, but many of his receptions are short ones out of the backfield that essentially substitute for running plays.Among more conventional receiving targets, receiver Ted Ginn Jr. has nine catches, tight end Ben Watson has seven, and no one else has more than two.When asked about his heavy reliance on Thomas in the passing game, Brees downplayed it as more of a short-term phenomenon than a developing trend."For one reason or another, I know he's caught a lot of balls the last two weeks. He's gotten open. He's done a great job with that. His number's been called Youth Ricardo Allen Jersey
," Brees said."It's probably the combination of a lot of things, but I feel like we've got other guys that can do it, too. It's just a matter of what the defense is going to give us."I'm going to throw it to the open guy 鈥?move the chains, score points."Falcons coach Dan Quinn also struggled to envision the rate of Thomas' targets remaining as high as it has been through two games."Let's face it. They're equipped to attack in a lot of different ways," Quinn asserted this week. "Michael right now is on his game, but by no stretch have we said 'OK, it's just these players.' ... We know they've got a big stable of guys that can make plays in a lot of ways, but we have been very impressed by Michael and his start."New Orleans made a pair of offseason moves aimed at providing Brees more options, signing Bears 2016 receiving leader Cameron Meredith as a restricted free agent and drafting former Central Florida receiver Tre'Quan Smith in the third round last spring.But judging those moves could take time.Smith has been in the game plan, but rookies sometimes take time to develop chemistry with veteran QBs. He had one catch for 18 yards in a victory over Cleveland and no catches in a Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay."He has not received a ton of opportunities, but I think as the season progresses his opportunities will come," Brees said. "He can be a big part of what we do down the road."Smith said his daily goal is to win Brees' trust and he does not sound disillusioned by the relatively slow start to his career."You've got to be a team player," Smith said. "If they're not going to cover (Thomas), keep going to him."If Mike has all the yards and all the touchdowns, but we're winning Stitched Ryan Schraeder Jersey
, that's totally fine," Smith said. "I'm sure teams are going to be zeroing in on Mike, but that's when other receivers have got to step up. We've got to be ready."Meredith, meanwhile, is trying to come back from torn knee ligaments that wiped out his 2017 season. He said trainers and doctors urged caution during training camp, thereby limiting his opportunities to practice with the first-team offense.He was scratched from the lineup in Weeks 1 and 2, but with Ginn limited in practice with knee soreness this week, Meredith has been getting work with the first-team offense and appears primed to make his Saints debut in Atlanta."It's hard. It's an everyday battle. This process is new to me, so whatever the trainers and the doctors say is best, we had to go with that," Meredith said."But at the same time, I've been getting better day by day, getting my rhythm back. And those are all important things 鈥?not just the health part, but getting in rhythm with the offense."I feel good and I'm excited to go out there and make some plays this weekend." ATLANTA (AP) — After Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston traded touchdown pass after touchdown pass, it came down to a few wacky flips near the goal line.The Tampa Bay Buccaneers nearly pulled off a miracle.But Youth Ryan Schraeder Jersey
, in the end, the Atlanta Falcons finally got a much-needed victory to bounce their way.Ryan threw for 354 yards and three touchdowns as the Falcons snapped a three-game losing streak, holding off Tampa Bay 34-29 Sunday in Winston’s return as the Bucs‘ starter.The Falcons (2-4) scored on their first three possessions and held off a wild comeback by Tampa Bay (2-3), avoiding their first 1-5 start since 2007. The Bucs lost their third in a row.“It was all hands on deck,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said.Especially on the final play .Winston and the Bucs drove to the Atlanta 21 but were out of timeouts. With the Falcons dropping nearly everyone toward the end zone, expecting a pass, Winston took the snap and darted straight up the middle of the field. When he was about to be tackled at the 10, he pitched the ball toward receiver Adam Humphries, who was so intent on going for the winning score he couldn’t hang on.The ball skipped to Mike Evans, who blindly flung it in the direction of DeSean Jackson along the sideline at the 5. Jackson might’ve had a chance to dive for the end zone, but he couldn’t come up with another bouncing ball. It rolled harmlessly out of bounds to end the game.Jackson ripped off his helmet and kicked the pylon in disgust on his way to the locker room.“The play is a play you run once,” tight end O.J. Howard said. “It was a great call. We almost got it.”Winston, who was suspended for the first three games of the season and came off the bench in Week 4, threw for 395 yards and four TDs. His performance, though Stitched Andy Levitre Jersey
, was marred by a pair of interceptions, one a deep ball that was picked off at the Atlanta 1 and a deflected pass in the end zone that ricocheted high in the air and was grabbed by Brian Poole to deny a red-zone scoring chance.Ryan’s three TD passes gave him 274 in his career, passing Joe Montana for 16th on the career list.“Obviously it’s very special any time your name is brought up with Joe’s,” Ryan said. “But I’m more excited about the win.”He also had a big scramble on third-and-9, powering for a 13-yard gain that set up his final scoring pass.Quinn made a gutsy call with just over a minute remaining, sending on Matt Bryant to attempt a 57-yard field goal with Atlanta clinging to a 31-29 lead.Bryant’s kick just cleared the crossbar, extending the Falcons’ lead. The 43-yard-old Bryant put everything into the kick and immediately grabbed his right hamstring before hobbling off the field.Quinn’s decision forced the Bucs to go for a touchdown.“I can’t say enough about Matt Bryant and the kick he had,” Quinn gushed. “He’s definitely one of the most mentally tough players I’ve had a chance to coach.”JULIO’S DAYJulio Jones went another game without a touchdown catch.The Falcons didn’t mind a bit.Jones had 10 receptions for 143 yards — his third 100-yard game of the season — and constantly drew attention away from his teammates. That allowed Austin Hooper, Mohamed Sanu and Tevin Coleman to haul in scoring passes.Jones has gone 11 straight regular-season games without a TD since a Nov. 26, 2017, victory over Tampa Bay, when he had two scoring catches.BUC-KLING DOWNThe beleaguered Tampa Bay defense, which is guided by former Falcons coach Mike Smith, was shredded in the first half for three touchdowns, a last-second field goal and 275 yards.It showed a bit of improvement after the break Youth Andy Levitre Jersey
, actually forcing Atlanta to punt on three straight possessions.But, with the game on the line, the Bucs surrendered a 75-yard drive capped by Ryan’s 6-yard TD pass to Coleman and a 36-yard possession that set up Bryant’s long field goal.Tampa Bay came into the game allowing 34.75 points per game, more than any team in the league.INJURY REPORTAtlanta’s receiving corps took a beating. Calvin Ridley, who was leading the Falcons with six touchdown catches, went out in the first half with an ankle injury and didn’t return. Sanu was sidelined in the second half with a hip problem after hauling in a 35-yard touchdown pass.The loss of two receivers forced the Falcons to give more playing time to Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall and Russell Gage. Hardy had three catches and Gage came up with a big catch on Atlanta’s touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.The Bucs lost defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who walked slowly off the field in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury. Also, cornerback Ryan Smith was evaluated for a possible concussion.UP NEXTBuccaneers: Return home next Sunday to host the Cleveland Browns (2-3-1).Falcons: Host the struggling New York Giants (1-5) on Monday, Oct. 22, to close out a stretch of five home games in the first seven weeks of the season.