Here's a look back at how this morning's "Sunday Spotlight" performers did today.
Atlanta's offensive line: The Falcons began their Sunday night adventure with three straight three-and-outs as the Bears brought several different blitz packages to fluster Matt Ryan(notes) and alter the gameplan. In the second quarter, the Falcons changed things up, making the Bears pay for their blitzes with no-huddle, quick passes to the flats and up the middle, and designed rollouts to extend Ryan's reads. This allowed Atlanta to go up, 14-7, at the end of the first half. From a blocking perspective, one of the "disadvantages" of having a superior tight end target like Tony Gonzalez(notes) is that you telegraph plays with the use of your protection packages.
But Atlanta's offensive line allowed Gonzo to get free to catch passes with the intelligent and effective use of combos up front, as opposed to the pulling, back-side blocking they prefer when fullback Ovie Mughelli(notes) is completely healthy. They went power zone and straight man, and it worked. Not only was Ryan not sacked, no Bears defender was credited with a quarterback hit. Ryan threw a few ugly passes and two picks under that pressure, but the Falcons were outstanding with their formation adjustments, and that's what allowed them to stay in the game offensively as their defense was getting it done in the red zone.
New Orleans' defense: Well, you can officially remove any doubts about the "for-realness" of the Saints. Their 48-27 domination of the formerly undefeated Giants not only put the New Orleans offense firmly back on track, but it also showed that there's nothing flukey about the newly-dominant defense. Eli Manning(notes), who's been playing as well as any quarterback in the league this year, was befuddled by Gregg Williams' blitzes, once going off on running back Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) for blowing a protection call on what turned out to be a safety blitz and a sack.
Manning completed 14 passes on 31 attempts, never looked comfortable in the pocket, had a Darren Sharper(notes) pick-six negated by a roughing-the-passer call on Jonathan Vilma(notes), and saw a touchdown to Mario Manningham(notes) deflected by Sharper. New York's rushing attack was anything but spectacular, putting up 84 total yards on 19 carries. Thus, Williams and Sharper - the two men most responsible for the stunning turnaround of New Orleans' defense -- were pointmen in this win. And the Saints are now the team to beat in the NFC if the Vikings aren't.