Was it live or EA Sports? The Atlanta Falcons lost a heartbreaker in overtime to their hated rivals, the New Orleans Saints 43-37 at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
While it was extremely disappointing it is a prime example of how this rivalry is one of the greatest in the NFL. Sure, people talk about the Cowboys and Redskins as well as the Patriots and Colts, but perhaps the most heated rivalry in the league is Atlanta and New Orleans. It has been magnified in the past ten years during the Matt Ryan and Drew Brees era for these teams. For most of the past decade both teams have been relevant in the league with playoff appearances galore and a Super Bowl appearance each since 2007. Both QBs are league MVPs and a far cry from the days of Aaron Brooks and Chris Miller.
Literally for decades both teams were irrelevant in the NFL – lovable losers if that. It took the Saints 20 years after joining the league to have their first winning season. The Falcons were only slightly better as they never had back-to-back winning seasons until 2008-09. The rivalry not only between teams, but each other should be witnessed first hand. It’s like Mardi Gras on steroids on gameday with fans in each other’s face taunting and cheering – usually all in good fun.
While both teams have had their ups and downs over the past ten years the games between the two have been monumental. Sunday’s was no different.
Take two of the best arms in the game and put them in a relatively new stadium and what do you get? Eight touchdown passes and almost 800 yards passing. And ironically while both are not know for running with the ball, Brees let his feet do the talking as he scored the game’s final to touchdowns on runs – one to tie the game and the other to win it for the visiting Saints in overtime.
In the past two weeks both Ryan and Brees have scored a pair of touchdowns to help their teams – different games mind you, but from guys who predominantly move their feet to avoid the rush, not to score. I’m not sure what that is saying about either team in an era where the quarterback has been put on a pedestal and almost any hit may mean a roughing the passer call.
The result of the shootout was 80 points combined – the most in the history of the rivalry, 10 touchdown passes (five apiece) and 770 combined passing yards and surprisingly no interception. Unfortunately no defense from either side either. “It’s tough. I felt like we could have done a better job defensively. It’s heartbreaking but we are going to go back to the practice field and critique ourselves,” said Falcon linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. regarding the Saints putting up 43 points on the Falcons.
Calvin Ridley continues to impress as the Atlanta rookie led all receivers with 146 receiving yards and three touchdowns including a 75 yards catch and run just before the two minute warning. Ridley has a big fan in teammate Julio Jones who added 96 receiving yards on five catches. “I knew it all along, he’s a great player. You just have to let him play, and make plays, and he made some great plays for us today,” he said.
The injury bug bit the Falcons defense again as they lost two defenders in the fourth and one, safety Richard Allen in overtime as the defense is getting thin already here in only week three. Atlanta cornerback Robert Alford said it’s time for everyone to step up their game with all the injuries. “I try to step my game up each and every week no matter who’s on the field. That’s just me; I’m my biggest critic. I always go back the night of the game and just watch my technique and watch the things I can do.”
Coach Dan Quinn probably summed things up best. “I thought both offenses lit it up. They certainly got hot. We certainly have work to do in our winning moments, but we had our chances, certainly at the end of the game and in all three phases, for some of those. That part, we didn’t nail. This one stinks for sure, a division game. The environment was exactly what we want it to be. We definitely expected a good fight. It went all the way down through it in overtime as we expected, but to come away with a loss today definitely stinks.”
The Falcons remain at home next Sunday as they host the Cincinnati Bengals. Kickoff is at 1pm and will be aired on CBS.
– Dave Weinthal
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