I would like to buy Mark Bradley's argument that the Falcons can do what the Saints just did, but I see a couple, um, shall we say meaningful differences:
1. Sean Payton calls plays for the Saints. Mike Mularkey calls plays for the Falcons. For a guy who rates coaching as being a critical factor on the college and NFL levels, this should mean something to Bradley. I'm not sure how to characterize the Saints' offense, but it's really cool to watch. New Orleans does a million different things and they spread the ball around, but everything is keyed off of the passing game. Mularkey is completely different. His offense is keyed off of giving the ball to Michael Turner over and over again. Whereas the Saints spread the ball to a number of different receivers, the Falcons funnel the ball to Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. The only similarity between Payton and Mularkey is that they both like trick plays.
2. After the season that Matt Ryan just turned in, one that caused Bradley to write that we may have Eli Manning instead of Peyton, I'm not quite sure how he concludes that the Falcons aren't behind the Saints at the quarterback position. Yes, Matt Ryan is "further along than Drew Brees was after two seasons," but he's not comparable to where Brees is right now. Long-term, Ryan is obviously a better bet, but Bradley is writing about 2010. In a similar vein, Curtis Lofton might turn into a Jonathan Vilma, but he's not there yet (and based on my sense that Vilma was a great player in college and Lofton wasn't, I don't think that Lofton will ever get there. Lofton looks like a pretty good NFL linebacker, but I see him as a cut below Vilma.)
3. The sea change for New Orleans was hiring Gregg Williams, who changed New Orleans' defensive approach into a hyper-aggressive, blitzing style that compensated for the fact that the Saints' defensive personnel isn't superior. (By the way, I stopped reading him years ago, but is Gregg Easterbrook still on the tangent that blitzing is a terrible idea? I thought of Easterbrook as Tracy Porter was weaving his way downfield after picking off a pass that Peyton Manning threw under duress in the face of a six-man blitz.) Have the Falcons taken a step to hire an ace defensive coordinator?