For the first time in ages, the Atlanta Falcons swept the seasons series with the New Orleans Saints with their 38-32 victory on Sunday. The win secured the second seed in the playoff for the red hot Falcons, ensuring a week of rest and a first round bye in the second season. The final score was closer than it really should have been, but this was ultimately an impressive performance for both the offense and defense. Most importantly, the Falcons appear to have dodged any major injury concerns and with the week of rest, should be as healthy as possible for the post-season. Here are some additional takeaways from the game on Sunday.
Defense shows signs of improvement
I wrote recently that the Saints offense would show us where the Falcons defense is really at. Depending on which half of the game you paid attention to, you either felt really good or really bad about this defense. The defense had several impressive stops in the first half, limiting the explosive Saints offense to a meager 13 points. For large stretches of the game, Robert Alford and Jalen Collins took the Saints receivers out of the game plan. Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley got sacks as well, while Deion Jones continued to shine in coverage.
The second half, though, was frustrating. There will probably be debate in the coming days on whether the defense took it’s foot off the gas, but the performance in the second half was concerning. Drew Brees came alive and the Saints were able to rattle off 19 points in the fourth quarter. Were it not for the huge end zone interception by Jalen Collins, the outcome of this game could have been far different and very disappointing.
That said, the Falcons defense did about what we could expect. They got a key turnover and stopped a few drives. This is still not a good defense, but they are improving in some key areas. Let’s hope those improvements continue in the coming weeks.
Offense is unstoppable
At this point, I don’t know that there’s a defense capable of stopping the Falcons. Even the vaulted Seahawks defense looks vulnerable without Earl Thomas, and even with him, the Falcons were still able to score. Look at the point totals for the Falcons since coming back from the bye week: Cardinals (38), Chiefs (28), Rams (42), 49ers (41), Panthers (33), Saints (38). To put it mildly, that is ridiculous.
Keep in mind, they were able to do this without their starting TE (Jacob Tamme) and with Julio Jones out for two of those games, and not fully healthy in another. In fact, it almost seems like it doesn’t matter who is on the field right now. Guys up and down the roster are contributing. Julio Jones. Mohamed Sanu. Taylor Gabriel. Devonta Freeman. Tevin Coleman. Justin Hardy. Aldrick Robinson. Nick Williams. The beer vendor from section 347. PICK. YOUR. POISON.
Matt Ryan is a clear MVP candidate, and the offensive line has given him a great pocket to operate out of in recent weeks. If they continue to do so, the potential for this team may be unlimited.
Team mentality is dramatically different
In Quinn’s second year as head coach, it’s clear that the mentality on this team has changed dramatically. How many times over the years have we hoped for a team with a “killer instinct” or one that wasn’t overwhelmed by “big moments.” Well, based on what we’ve seen this year, we may finally have that.
The Falcons have refused to “play down” to opponents, dominating teams like the hapless Rams and 49ers. They also showed up big in “trap games” like the ones against Carolina and this one against the Saints. The offense doesn’t take it’s foot off the gas like it used to, and the overall nature of this team is attacking and aggressive. It’s a far cry from what we’ve gotten used to in the past, and it bodes well for the future. In just his second year as head coach, it’s clear that Dan Quinn has instilled a different mindset - one that fans have been wanting for a long time.
What are your takeaways from the game against the Saints?