November 20, 1967, a
date that will live in infamy game that Falcons fans likely regard as the beginning of the most important rivalry for the franchise today. The Saints won this first ever matchup between these two teams 27-24 that fabled afternoon, and thus marked the dawn of what would be known as "that series we play every year against that team we hate in our division".
Ask a Falcons fan, they'll call it a rivalry. Ask a Saints fan, they'll speak in some odd Cajun dialect and you'll be left scratching your head. But the ones we can comprehend seem to stray from using the R word.
The all-time series in this matchup sits in Atlanta's favor 46-41. Yeah, I'm including the 1991 playoff victory. A 10-game winning streak that spanned from 1995-1999 is the longest period of Falcons fortune, while NOLA's longest term on top lasted six games between 1986-1989, proving once again which city is superior, right?
Much to Atlanta's dismay, New Orleans is finding victory to be a trifling task in recent years. The Saints enter Thursday night riding a four-game win streak against the Falcons. They swept the Dirty Birds in 2011 and have claimed 11 of the past 13 meetings, which I'm sure is a stat now embedded in your brain after hearing it so much. The last time the Falcons pulled off a sweep came in 2005, with one game being played in San Antonio after the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Times were a little different back then.
Looking around to find opinions on the topic at hand, we can all remember what Scott Shanle (aka some dude on the bench) said after Week 10's result. He gave the Falcons the nickname of "little brother" after he worked up a sweat on the inactive list as a healthy scratch. Curtis Lofton, as James recently pointed out, sees this as a divisional, not rivalry game. Apparently they see things differently down in the bayou.
I came across an article from Bleacher Report (sorry) titled "Can We Really Call It a Rivalry Anymore?" The writer goes on to talk about the misfortunes of Atlanta over the past decade, noting a few specific cases with poor grammar along the way. I've also seen plenty of Saints fans on Twitter/Facebook/the interwebs deny this is truly a rivalry.
What constitutes as a rivalry, though? Does playing every single year meet the required expectations for such a title?
Given the animosity from each side when "Hate Week" rolls around, I'd have no problem declaring the Falcons-Saints series to be a rivalry. They don't like each other, they don't respect each other and they both certainly want to avoid a loss at all costs. Sounds like a rivalry to me.
Even Wikipedia has my back, bless them. Take a look at their page of the Falcons-Saints rivalry. See? Told you so.
Sure, the Falcons haven't attained much prosperity against the Saints for quite some time now. Even their hopes of an undefeated season failed to come to fruition after suffering defeat at the Superdome a few weeks back. But, is UGA vs. Georgia Tech no longer a rivalry because the Yellow Jackets don't really know how to play football anymore? The Dawgs have won 11 of the past 12, yet that game is still labeled "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate" every year. Plus, Atlanta still possesses the upper hand in the all-time record. Are we just forgetting the history of the rivalry?
I would like to see what you guys think. Is this a rivalry, or is it just a competitive game between two divisional opponents?