Talk about attraction or the lack thereof, opposites met in the Mercedes Superdome, both coming off a bye week. The only thing the teams have in common are the names of their stadiums, records polar opposite Saints 7-1, the Falcons with a disappointing and downward spiraling 1-7 record were 13 point underdogs.
After a six-game skid, the Falcons finally won one, and what a big one it was against their chief rival the New Orleans Saints 26-9. By far, it was their most complete game; some may say their only game of the season. Amazingly the Falcons collectively in the first eight games could only produce seven sacks none in the last nineteen quarters ranking at the bottom of the NFL.
For most of the season, the defense has been on vacation, but boy did they come to work today, hammering the Saints into submission sacking Drew Breez six times and denying 0-3 attempts in the red zone forcing fields goals. The most important stat was zero touchdowns. I emphasize zero touchdowns.
The Saints struggled to convert on 3 of 12 third-down attempts and could not convert on either of their desperation fourth downs. It was a good ole fashion beat down.
Matt Ryan was impressed by the defensive performance saying
“I thought our defense did a great job of rushing the passer. I’m not sure how many sacks we had today, but they got after it pretty good. For them to get after Drew (Brees) in the passing game and to play good secondary defense is critical for us. That is going to be huge for us moving forward.”
Perhaps it was the most significant win of head coach Dan Quinns’ career. It might have saved or extended his tenure.
He said, “he viewed the bye week as an opportunity to reset and focus on the last eight games as a new season.” Instead of licking his wounds and burying his head in sorrow, coaching roles were changed to get a spark; it paid major dividends. Currently, they are the darlings of the NFC South.
I have to give the Brotherhood credit as bad as it has been; they are not pointing fingers nor coming unglued in public, and players have voiced their positive feelings as well as support for their head coach; maybe we are starting to see why.
The issues have been he says the right things, appears to do the right things, but was not getting the desired results on game day. Give credit where it’s due, he continues to coach. He has also given up defensive play-calling duties. I don’t know what else a leader is expected to do when you keep in mind the big picture. As a leader, you have to do what’s best for the team, maybe it’s late, but at least he got to it.
Offensively they were just as impressive, stringing together two 75 yard touchdown drives each score came on ten plays or more. Matt Ryan didn’t produce his usual high flying numbers but was more effective completing 20 of 35 passes for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns, most impressive were his two scrambles that picked up first downs that extended drives.
The Falcons had their best rushing performance of the season generating 143 yards led by Brian Hill. He carried the ball 20 times for 61 yards, all but one came in the second half in the absence of Devonta Freeman, who exited the game with a foot injury.
Sean Peyton shared his respect for the Falcons running game, “the drives for them extended and the drives for us didn’t. I thought they were going to be patient and mix it up. They were more effective running the ball than teams we’ve seen to date for quite a while. So again, I’m sure when we look at the tape tomorrow with our players, there’s going to be a lot of things we’re going to clean up.”
Recently signed kicker Younghoe Koo made his perfectly scripted debut successfully kicking four field goals, the longest for 48 yards. He also nailed each extra point not bad for a guy who was all but out of football, teaching us that we should never give up on our goals and dreams.
The Falcons started the game with an aggressive mentality playing to their strong offense. Most teams defer the coin toss advantage to the second half, but the Falcons aligned to their strength.
Dan Quinn explained the decision to receive the ball to start the game
“We had decided yesterday or the day before if we had chances when in the game management moments, how do you want to go attack? At the end of the game, if it is tied, will you go for two or go to overtime? So often those decisions are made early to make sure when we are in the moment, people are prepared for that. We just wanted to be aggressive, and if we had the chance to win the toss, we would choose to play on offense. I haven’t done it a lot, but we just wanted to be as aggressive as we could.”
The strategy was to get something or anything good that would lead to positive energy.
They were determined to establish the run, feeding Devonte Freeman 4 times for 25 yards before the 11:00 minute mark of the first quarter. They drove it down to the 13-yard line, then the same old Falcons showed up with a false start by rookie Caleb McGary, followed by a false start by Jamon Brown and a holding penalty by James Carpenter.
The drive stalled, providing Younghoe Koo the opportunity to seize the moment with a successful 37-yard field goal. Noticeably he was wearing #7. I like his nerve, but that number belongs to the prodigal football son of the most loyal of the Falcons fan base Michael Vic. I hope he has tough skin that road might get a little rocky.
The Falcons ran for 57 yards on their first drive. That was will power from a desperate team. On their next drive, they went for it on 4th, and 4 from just inside Saints territory Ryan escaped the pocket bad ankle or not he was going to get that first down.
We saw the little big things like failing to line up properly, forcing a time out and those dirty, false starts, today they were able to overcome them. Defensively there were no undisciplined encroachment or offside penalties even when the Saints tried to entice them with a hard count on 4th down; it backfired with a penalty on them for a false start.
At a critical time of the game (9:01 fourth quarter), the Falcons got another break to go their way, a roughing the kicker penalty. It was important because they were able to take more time off the clock instead of giving Drew Breez the opportunity to attempt a dramatic comeback.
Today the breaks went the way of the Falcons; the power of positive energy attracts good things none more positive than a win for the embattled team that still believes in their coach.
I close with Sean Payton’s opening statement is says it all
“Real quickly, obviously it was a disappointing finish for us. The first thing I would say, give Atlanta credit. They beat us well in all three areas. They played better than us. Pick a situation, and there’s a good chance they won that situation. Third down, they were better both sides of the ball. Penalties, they were better. Collectively we’ve got to do a better job, and that starts with me. It’s kind of one of those, it’s not a lesson, but this league is too good week-to-week where you can go in and not be focused and ready. This has always been a game played with emotion, and I thought they outplayed us. They outplayed us, they outcoached us, and they deserve to win.”
Next on the schedule for the Atlanta Falcons are the Carolina Panthers. How many passing yards will Matt Ryan contribute? Place your answer in the facebook group Atlanta Falcons Fix. https://www.facebook.com/groups/173314496555349/