Superman has kryptonite. The Atlanta Falcons have Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Since the pair arrived in The Big Easy have taken what had been traditionally a one-side rivalry and switched it. Since the pair came to town in 2006 you can count Falcons’ victories on one hand – and have a few fingers to spare.
Thursday night was no different as the struggling Saints had their groove back – at least for one game as they defeated their rival the Atlanta Falcons 31-21 before a sold-out raucous crowd at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
Everything went well for the Saints while the Falcons saw things fall apart.
Looking at the stats one would have thought the Falcons won, but if you look at one category it explains the loss.
For the second game in a row the Falcons turned the ball over more times than their opponent as they lost three fumbles. This week they were game changers. Twice while inside the New Orleans 20 they fumbled the ball away. First Tevin Coleman fumbled inside the ten to quash a game-tying score. “I told Tevin (Coleman) just to be Tevin and don’t get down on yourself. I’ve been in this league a very long time. When something like that happens, a player can’t shy away from who he is,” said Atlanta’s Roddy White. “He’s a great player and works hard and I know he’ll bounce back and make a lot of plays for us. I thought he played great for us tonight. He did a heck of a job running the ball and except for the fumble, he played well.”
White finally started seeing the ball thrown more his way scoring Atlanta’s forst touchdown and extending his franchise record of now 63 touchdowns. White caught three passes for 23 yards, his biggest game since the season opener against the Eagles where he tallied 84 receiving yards.
Before you knew it the Falcons were down 14-0. After taking the opening kickoff 80s yards with Marc Ingram scoring on a short touchdown run, the Falcons offense pretty much took over except a few mistakes and then the infamous blocked punt.
Punting from inside his 10 punter Matt Bosher the Saints’ Michael Mauti actually got to the ball before Bosher’s foot, blocking the kick, jumping on the ball and crossing the goal line to the elation of the crowd that remembers a similar play in the season opener of 2006. “It certainly did get them rolling on the blocked punt. They had a twist game inside, one that we executed a number of times, and tonight didn’t. They (broke) down our technique. It resulted on the punt being blocked,” said Falcons’ coach Dan Quinn about the blocked punt.
That was New Orleans’s first game since Hurricane Katrina has displace them the year before and the Saints embarrassed the Falcons on Monday Night Football. Thursday night’s game had the same feel except no one was displace – except the Falcons no longer being undefeated.
Brees looked like his old self as he threw for 312 yards and a touchdown completing 76.1 percent of his passes. Of course Brees tends to have his best days against his bitter division rival.
Ben Watson who came over from New England o take over the tight end duties from Jimmy Graham who left for Seattle had a career day with ten catches including a touchdown pass in the third quarter on a fourth and goal.
Devonta Coleman had another big game for the Falcons. He rushed for 100 yards on 13 carries including a 25 yard run early in the fourth quarter to pull the Falcons within 10 at 24-14. He also scored late in the game on a 13 yard catch and run from Matt Ryan to make the final score 31-21.
With the two touchdowns Freeman leads the league with ten touchdowns this seaso and has rushed for over 100 yards for the third time this season. The Falcons as a team ran for 150 yards and held another opponent to under 100 as the Saints managed only 81 total yards on the game. For the game the Falcons outgained the Saints 413 to 393. But turnovers are what spelled doom for Atlanta and their perfect record.
“If we hold on to the ball we always give ourselves a chance to win. We’re talented enough on offense that if we hold onto the ball and not give it away, we’ll find a way to win games,” said White. “But I tell people all the time – if we don’t hold onto the ball, we’ll get beat, and that’s what you saw tonight.”
“In order to take over momentum in the game you’ve got to convert the third downs. And when you factor in the turnovers and not making first downs, we aren’t going to win. But I think we will be better,” said Atlanta QB Matt Ryan.
“The turnovers really told the story of the game. It was hard to overcome those mistakes. Like I said, we will give credit to New Orleans tonight. I thought that they played a terrific game,” said Quinn.
The Falcons are on the road next week as they’ll travel up I-24 West to take on the Tennessee Titans, whom they defeated in the preseason. The extra couple of days rest should help some of the Falcons who continue to hobble around including Julio Jones still managed to accumulate 93 receiving yards in the loss to the Saints. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and the game will be aired on Fox.
– Dave Weinthal
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