The Atlanta Falcons, undefeated no more. It had to be a division rival and probably their biggest adversaries the New Orleans Saints, with all of their problems, to end their winning streak at 8, despite Matt Ryan posting better numbers than Drew Brees and having a few big chances late in the game to to win it.
Instead, the Saints stood firm and won it 31-27. A nine yard pass to Harry Douglas gave the Falcons a chance to win it with under two minutes left; Second and goal on the 1. Then Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez couldn’t connect, broken up by Malcolm Jenkins. Michael Turner lost a yard on terrible day for him and the Falcons’ running game and finally, Ryan found Roddy White in the end zone for what could have been a winning touchdown, but Jabari Greer was there to break up the play.
I could put that ball in a better spot. A little higher and more in front of him to give him a chance to catch it. We’ve always played them tough and haven’t had the outcomes we wanted.
It was a huge day for tight ends on both sides. Jimmy Graham, on the winning side, finished with a season high 146 yards and two touchdowns, with all eight targets coming at least six yards downfield and gaining more yards after the catch Sunday than in his previous eight games combined.
Tony Gonzalez, the prototype of the modern tight end and probably somewhat of a hero to some of the young guys at the position in the NFL is still doing it at the age of 36, with 16 NFL seasons felt on his body. He caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first tight end to have 100 career touchdowns, currently standing at 101.
It was interesting to see how the New Orlenas Saints were finally able to stop the rush, keeping the Falcons at only 46 yards while allowing 162 yards per game on the ground. Atlanta passed on nine of its 13 goal-to-go chances against the Saints, including its 4th-and-2 play with 1:46 remaining in the game. The Falcons turned to the pass because Michael Turner gained -2 yards on four goal-to-go rushes against the Saints. On the season, Turner has just three touchdowns on 17 goal-to-go rushes.
It’s hard to say Matt Ryan didn’t bring it, with a career high 411 yards to go with his three touchdown passes and one interception. The Falcons and especially Ryan were red hot to start the game: 9-of-9 for 114 yards and a touchdown before Julio Jones went down with an ankle injury with 4:51 remaining in the 1st quarter. While he was out, before returning midway through the third quarter, the Falcons were 8-15 and only 5.1 yards per attempt, getting outscored by 14 points.
For the Saints, this was more than a lifeline. It was a proclamation that they’re still in the hunt for a playoff spot, and that this team is back with Joe Vitt bringing back a lot of venom and attitude to the sideline, spilling onto the field. For the Falcons, it was something that had to happen sooner or later. They’re not that good of a team to go 16-0, but they were still good enough to put themselves in a position to win more than once in the closing minutes. Unlike the rest of the season, they couldn’t come up with that one play to put them over the threshold.