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Game Recap: ATL vs NO

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Seven Falcons are going to the Pro Bowl (yes, I realize they won't be "going" if circumstances turn extra Super Bowl-y). We're twelve and three with the #1 NFC playoff seed one win away from our wing tips. We're favored to be facing the Patriots in February. The team has perhaps been this good only once or twice before in a forty-four year history. So why am I still so down? I know that tons of you are already over the loss. Let me play devil's advocate here and RUMINATE on the loss.

@AdamLSchultz My Dad once said if you ruminate too long you will go blind. I said, "Dad, I'm over here." ~ itsAndres

I know what you're saying. "Adam, we split with the defending Super Bowl champs. Adam, we're one easy win away from the franchise's first ever top o' the conference playoff seeding. Adam, we have more Pro Bowl players than any other team this season." Yeah, I know all that. And I'm happy. The seven pro bowl nods has certainly eased the pain of Monday night's loss.

Fear is what it struck in me. Awe too, but mostly fear. How does one get over one's fears? By staring them in the face. That's just what I'm about to do.

The Good

My God, the defense. I don't know what sort of fire they had in their hearts, but it was a blazing inferno. Our defense was mean and opportunistic. This was, in all respects, one of, if not THE most impressive outings by our squad (Ok, the Arizona game counts as the best. Certainly it was the most dominant).

John Abraham recorded his first career interception after eleven seasons in the NFL, and if it weren't for Drew Brees' quick thinking tackle, he would have added a touchdown to that mark. Sadly, that score would have likely won us the game, like many other things I'm about to list.

Chauncey Davis pays attention. That's why he picked off the shovel pass and ran it in for a touchdown. He had seen Brees make the gutsy backhanded toss to Pierre Thomas once before during the game, when Brees was already on his way down for a sack. Davis wasn't fooled at all. It was a beautiful thing.

The Bad

There are a lot of low points for this game, but there were a few that cost us the game, so I'll list those.The offense was not the offense that took the field the prior fourteen games. Not by a long shot. The offense that took the field Monday night was timid, mistake-prone, and bewildered. The OL couldn't contain holes for Turner, Matt Ryan was dancing around with blinders on, unable to make the clutch throws he's known for, and quality play calling all but disappeared.

Last year, on a fourth and six late in the fourth quarter, Mike Smith decided to go for it. The result? Chris Redman's screen pass to Jason Snelling ended up a yard short and the Saints beat the Falcons. That's the only reason I have to explain why Smith did not go for it with a better set of players. With the two minute warning gone and two timeouts, fourth and six in a must score to win situation, you go for it. No excuses. When we punted, I knew right then that the game was lost. But it wasn't lost just because we didn't have the cajones to throw the dice.

Had it not been for the DPI on Jenkins in the endzone, he would have caught a touchdown. The Falcons would have then been up by ten on the Saints. Instead, the Falcons get the ball on the one yard line and have what appears to be an easy score. The first play, an up-the-gut run by Michael Turner, goes nowhere. And then, in typical Mularkey fashion, we run the exact same play. This time, the ball, not well secured by Turner, happens to bump into a Saint's knee. Pop goes the weasel. Bye bye touchdown. That score would have won the game for us in the long run, had everything gone its course the same way.

And Matt Ryan. I love ya buddy. You've got an official Pro Bowl nod. But ya know what? When the center fumbles the ball, you FALL ON IT. You do not raise your hands like a scared little child and hopscotch away from the soon-to-be-scrum. I swear, the replay of that fumble made Matt Ryan look about as brave and smart as a retarded lemming. Had Ryan fell on the fumble, seven of the Saints' points would have never been on the board.

The Ugly

Thankfully I didn't have to listen to the TV announcers as I had Randy Waters and Dave Archer on DaveFM, so as per my custom, I will inevitably fall on the referring. Ed Hochuli and his rag tag crew are always good for at least 10 penalties a game and they did not disappoint. There was more yellow on the field than when Oregon dresses out for a game. Offsetting pass interference is a new one. Brand new. Never heard or seen it before in fifteen years of NFL fandom. Unprecedented and hard to swallow.