Offensive continuity key for Brady, Roethlisberger

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Offensive continuity key for Brady, Roethlisberger

FOXBORO Every year, there are jobs to be won and lost in training camp and to a lesser degree, during the season.

This holds true for both New England and Pittsburgh . . . except at one position.

That would be quarterback, arguably the most important position on the field.

Having stability at this critical position is one of the reasons the Patriots and Steelers are once again among the top teams in the NFL.

The Patriots are led by Tom Brady, in his 12th season having spent the past decade as New England's man under center.

"It's been very important for me to never really change offenses or learn new terminology," Brady said. "We've just built on it over the years - the things I learned 12 years ago when I came here. It's great for a quarterback to have that continuity with coaching and obviously the terminology of the plays. It's been a huge benefit."

There's no question the Steelers have benefited from having Ben Roethlisberger, in his eighth season, as the team's starting quarterback ever since he was a rookie.

"Continuity, particularly at that position is a big positive of course," said coach Mike Tomlin. "It expands the things that you're capable of doing."

However, there's a not-so-great side about having the same guy year after year.

"I also think that you have to guard against getting too comfortable sometimes," Tomlin said. "It also sometimes potentially breeds a lack of communication or assumptions and that can be dangerous. There are some positives and there are some negatives you have to weigh on a daily basis."

For Roethlisberger, the positives far outweigh the drawbacks.

"It's great," said Roethlisberger, who has been the starting quarterback on a pair of Super Bowl champion teams (2006 and 2009) in Pittsburgh. "I've always said that I felt bad for someone like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who I think in about five years had four offensive coordinators, or whatever the ridiculous number was.

"That's really hard for a quarterback. Any time that you can get familiarity with a coach, with a coordinator, with a play-caller, whoever it is, it definitely makes it a lot easier for you."

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

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Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.