Saints need Marshon Lattimore at his best vs. Julio Jones, OBJ

METAIRIE, La. -- The most important development for the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 -- besides escaping with a desperately needed win over the Cleveland Browns -- was the bounce-back performance of Marshon Lattimore.

The Saints are going to need their top cornerback at the top of his game with Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr. looming on the schedule the next two weeks.

Lattimore, who routinely shadows the opponent's top receiver, had by far the worst performance of his young career in Week 1. The NFL's reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year allowed Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans to catch four passes for 115 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown, when he was matched up in single coverage against him. Last season, Lattimore didn't allow a single touchdown pass in man coverage, let alone a 50-yarder.

He responded with a strong performance in Sunday's 21-18 victory over the Browns.

"You're gonna have bad games. It comes with this league. Even the best players have bad games. So it's all about how you bounce back," said Lattimore, who quoted running back Marshawn Lynch by saying, "I know I'm gonna get got. But I'm gonna get mine more than I get got.

"I live by that. That's how I've been my whole life. It's all about how you bounce back. You get knocked down, get back up. Show 'em that you still here. You gotta be tough. That's the mentality -- that's the dog mentality that you have to have playing this game. You can't be soft playing this game. You can't let one game or a couple games get you down. You gotta have that dog in you."

Naturally, with that type of mentality, Lattimore said he is eager to face the Atlanta Falcons (1 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox) and New York Giants and their all-world receivers, Jones and Beckham, the next two weeks.

"Of course. Why not? I mean, I want to be the best, I gotta play against the best, I gotta do great against the best," Lattimore said. "You know, I had one fall the first game, and it can't happen again."

The Saints and Falcons are both 1-1 heading into Sunday's divisional matchup that is about as big as it gets in September.

Both of Lattimore's matchups against Jones last season were pretty epic, as these teams jockeyed for control of the NFC South. Each of them had big moments, with the final tally resulting in a draw, as the teams split the series 1-1.

Jones, who has an elite combination of size, speed and elusiveness after the catch at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, finished those two games with a total of 12 catches for 247 yards. But he scored zero touchdowns as Atlanta posted a total of just 33 points in the two games.

Lattimore was battling an ankle injury and an illness in the first meeting, which Atlanta won 20-17. But he managed to snag an interception in each game, including his "butt pick" in the second meeting, when he somehow managed to pin a tipped pass against his leg after it landed on his backside. The Saints won that game 23-13 to help them lock down the division title.

"He's a great competitor," Jones said of Lattimore last season. "And he travels -- that's what I love about him. He travels with all the top receivers that they play."

Lattimore earned a trip to the Pro Bowl last season, mostly because of how much he excelled in man coverage. Saints coach Sean Payton said Lattimore's combination of elite speed and length at 6-foot, 192 pounds allows him to match up well against all types of receivers, from speed threats such as Brandin Cooks to big bodies such as Evans to guys with both of those traits, such as Jones and Beckham (5-foot-11, 200 pounds).

Pro Football Focus rated Lattimore as the fourth-best cornerback in the NFL last season, noting that quarterbacks connected on only 50 percent of their throws when targeting him in man coverage, with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

Lattimore didn't shadow an individual receiver in the victory against Cleveland, which he said he wouldn't have done even if Josh Gordon had played in the game, since the Saints didn't expect Gordon to play a full-time role.

According to PFF, Lattimore allowed a total of three passes for 22 yards in his coverage area against the Browns. He was also strong in run support.

"He played well," said Payton, who was asked if it was important to see that from Lattimore because of the vital role he plays for the Saints.

"Listen, I think that when you play corner in this league long enough, you're going to have games where the receiver wins on a few big plays, and that's part of the deal. I think that's important for everyone," he said. "You have a game where you don't play as well, and the next week you respond. I think that is very important."

The same could be said for the entire Saints' pass defense. The entire secondary was torched by the Buccaneers in the 48-40 loss in Week 1 (which doesn't look quite as bad after Ryan Fitzpatrick & Co. did the same thing to the vaunted Philadelphia Eagles defense in Week 2).

The Saints fared much better against Cleveland, though their performance was far from perfect. New Orleans' No. 2 cornerback, Ken Crawley, fell victim to a late 47-yard touchdown pass when receiver Antonio Callaway broke free behind New Orleans' zone coverage.

Sunday's matchup against the Falcons won't just come down to Jones versus Lattimore, given that Atlanta's receiving corps also boasts veteran Mohamed Sanu and rookie first-round draft pick Calvin Ridley.

Crawley agreed, however, that "we live to fight for those type of games."

"We're not backing down from nobody," Crawley said. "Those guys are obviously good. ... And we've just gotta compete. Those guys are hell of players. But we've got some guys on the back end that can cover."