At various points in last night's game against the Saints, I really believed the Falcons were going to roar back and win it. All the signs were there. The defense was buckling down. The offense was moving efficiently. We looked nigh invincible some drives. It was a beautiful thing.
And then, as Chinua Achebe wrote, things fall apart.
It was a real gut punch of a game in that way. We weren't widely expected to be able to hang with the Saints, perhaps the league's toughest team, and yet that's exactly what the Falcons did. Losing a close game against a division rival is rough enough, but this loss may also have squashed our hopes of winning the division. I'm getting bummed out just typing that.
Still, as many of you pointed out, there's so many things we can take pride in after Monday. Not just that we kept the score close, but that we picked Drew Brees, managed a respectable defensive effort and finally unleashed Michael Turner. The fact that we played them so well that a win at the Georgia Dome in a few weeks suddenly seems eminently possible. The realization that we can hang in there with the very best is a comforting one as we continue our hunt for a playoff spot, and it's enough to make those losses against the Patriots and Cowboys sting a bit less. This is still a mighty interesting season, and I for one am looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
- Those who have thought that Michael Turner was due to break out at any moment can feel free to crow now. With Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood out, Turner was operating without a safety net, and he absolutely destroyed the Saints on the ground all day long for 151 yards and a touchdown. You can't overstate how good he looked today and the confidence boost this had to have been for him, so hopefully he's returned to his world-annihilating form for good. Glad to have you back, Burner!
- While we're at it, huge props to Roddy White. That 68 yard touchdown was a thing of beauty. Props also to Tony Gonzalez, who managed to make Matt Ryan's job a little easier Monday.
Coy Wire was awesome. His forced fumble almost gave us a chance to get back into it, and he managed to scoop another. A huge props to the Falcon defense in general for their ability to generate some turnovers, and Thomas DeCoud continues to win my heart by showing up to play every single time.
- Speaking of turnovers, did you see that Brent Grimes interception? Kid scooped up a little cloud with his football on that one. Made me feel pretty good about the secondary for a few minutes, at least.
- Curtis Lofton got hurt, came back and piled up stops. Can't knock his hustle.
Michael Koenen wins the field position battle most of the time. With two punts inside the 20, he was a limiting factor for the Saints offense more than once. You have to appreciate that.
- The day I stop praising Eric Weems in this section is the day he runs to the moon.
- Contrary to your likely first impression, I'm not putting Matt Ryan here because of the picks. Those were largely a combination of bad luck and a little bit of questionable decision-making. Ryan's here because he looked downright awful under pressure at times, and he never got into a rhythm. How much of that is on the New Orleans defense and how much of it is on Ryan I'll leave up to you, but it's clear this wasn't his finest hour. All part of the growth of a young quarterback, I guess.
- Michael Jenkins has to go here despite an otherwise solid game because he had a critical, critical drop that earned him the temporary scorn of every Falcons fan in the country. That's right around the clinical definition of a lowlight.
- All that talk about our secondary being a weakness and our cornerbacks being too short is, I think, somewhat overblown. That said, our biggest critics will point to last night and crow. Way too many passes where a guy either wasn't in the right spot or simply couldn't get up in the air enough to stop Marques Colston & Co. from hauling in the pass.
- Up until the final quarter of the game, tackling was spotty at best. Harrumph!
- I have a lot of respect for Jason Elam. I think he's a good guy and a great kicker. That said, it's time to give him some rest or figure out exactly what issue is causing these misses, because they were a game-changer Monday night. With some strong-legged young kickers ripe for the picking out there, it might be time to bring in a stopgap until Elam can work it all out. Tough break for him and the team, though.
Game MVP: I'll give an approving nod in the direction of Coy Wire, but Michael Turner was a beast and deserves his due. Congratulations, Touchdown Vampire!
Game Theme Song: We went the distance!
One Thing To Take Away: We're good and tough and gosh darn it, people like us!
Final Word: Soclose.