Somewhere in the chaos of Sunday's epic slugfest between our beloved Dirty Birds and those dastardly Saints sat all the hopes, ambitions, and prayers of an entire fanbase. We live and die with the Falcons every Sunday, a battle renewed weekly in a war that shall, in all hopes, end gloriously in the ides of February. We almost tasted that glory in 1998, our last sip from the cup of the ultimate accomplishment. Lo, as Falcons fans, we can point at games that we would recommend to fans and non alike. A last-minute win on a last-minute drive led by a frosh quarterback. The death of a magnanimous stat in the mild wintery warmth of Tampa Bay. An implausible win in the face of implausible odds at an implausibly daunting location, from the foot of an implausibly clutch, ex-maligned kicker, against a team that seemed to have all the luck.
Ladies and gentlemen, Sunday's game will be forever remembered. I've got it preserved and it's taking a spot on the media shelf along with the 1998 NFC Championship, 2008's last minute win against Chicago, and 2009's curse-breaking win against Tampa Bay.
- Matt Ryan: He was everything we wanted him to be in New Orleans. He was full of fury and wanted to win. From his thirteen yard scamper into a tough hit to his second and third effort third down conversion to his nearly flawless pass performance. This was not the Matt Ryan that choked in Pittsburgh. This was the Matt Ryan we drafted. Keep the fire, Mr. Ryan.
- Michael Turner: When he's got a lane, there's pain to be had. When there isn't a gap, prepare to be carried three or four yards.
- Jason Snelling: Snelling is the perfect complement to Turner, not because he's fundamentally different (in fact, he's much the same; a bruiser) but because of his strive and will to gain yardage, even on a screen or flip.
- Sean Weatherspoon: How clutch was his in-bounds tackle of Meacham to force the Saints to take the overtime? Very clutch. And his six tackles, second only to Curtis Lofton. He is, in Coach Smith's words, playing like a veteran.
- Tony Gonzalez: As often as the Fox officiating crew liked to mention it, you would not have thought Tony was capable, at his advanced age, to make such spectacular plays. Well he did and is. This is not news, ladies and gentlemen. Still, it warms your heart to know he's in Falcons red and black.
- Mike Smith: Courage is going for it on fourth down. Courage on steroids is going for fourth down, again, in the same drive.
- John Abraham: He was poked in the eye, and very clearly. I don't know whether or not it was intentional or not and I'm not going to speculate. As much as I've said in the past about Abe's motor, his decision to stay in and still get after Brees shows me his commitment to the team and its cause. And his sacking of Brees, forcing a third and long, helps as well.
- Jonathan Babineaux: Dave was right. We were definitely going to have to watch Babs. Fresh off his suspension, he tore up the pass rush and netted a fantastic sack.
- Matt Bryant: Your team is lining up for a 41 yard, game winning, field goal, already a shaky distance for you. And then one of the guards false-starts, forcing you to go for a 46 yarder. What do you do? Well Matt Bryant, against type some would say, sank the winning field goal; moreover, the kick would have gone farther were it not for the net. Mr. Bryant wanted that one.
- Sam Baker: This is becoming a regular occurrence in my recaps. Once again Sam Baker had multiple mental mistakes and was the attacking point for at least one of the two sacks recorded against our offensive line. There comes a point when that sort of performance gets you cut, but the team needs Baker until draft time comes around.
- D'unta Robinson: D-Rob is the only Falcons secondary starter without an interception, and yet he's the most highly-paid.
- Kick-off Coverage: Corral the big plays, gentlemen. Our punter/place kicker should not have to tackle returners.
- Saints "Mojo:" I don't exactly know if it's VooDoo or providence, but that "DeCoud's foot just forced a fumble" nonsense is just what won the Saints their Lombardi in the first place. Thankfully, the Falcons had a little of their own when Hartley stepped up to kick the game-winner.