We are going to be processing this game for a long time. The Falcons overcame three Matt Ryan interceptions and plenty of sloppy play to win a three point game, while the Saints were injured, penalized heavily, and undone by a handful of mistakes along the way. It was ugly, atrocious Thursday Night Football, but the Falcons won. At the end of the day, we’ll take that.
Here’s the drive-by-drive breakdown of this one, which was deeply bewildering. So glad the Falcons are still alive.
The Saints started the game with the ball, in their terrible white uniforms, not that I am biased. They also started on fire, moving the ball effectively both on the ground and through the air, meeting with minimal resistance from a Falcons defense that figured to struggle against them. They were able to get in the red zone inside three minutes. Then Alvin Kamara took a hard, high hit from Deion Jones, the Saints were facing third and long. Desmond Trufant was able to knock down the pass, and the Saints settled for a short field goal.
Falcons 0 - Saints 3
The Falcons, meanwhile, got a couple of hard Devonta Freeman runs, a couple of penalties on New Orleans, and a back-breaking 38 yard reception from Julio Jones where he ran over and through Saints defenders to start their first offensive drive. They got close to the ten yard line before stalling out, with the Saints dropping eight in coverage and preventing a successful third down conversion. The Falcons settled for the easy Matt Bryant field goal.
Falcons 3 - Saints 3
The Saints were back behind their own 20 on the next one, but Drew Brees was able to hit Michael Thomas and Brandon Coleman to get them out to about the 40 pretty quickly. Thankfully, the Falcons were able to stop Ingram, pressure Brees, and then make an open field tackle to shut down the drive. Punt.
Unfortunately, the Falcons’ next drive was a swift three and out. Tevin Coleman picked up six on the ground, but on third down, Ryan’s pass went a little high and Austin Hooper couldn’t get it. Punt.
End of quarter after two quick plays for about seven years by the Saints.
The Saints couldn’t get going after a nice pickup from Brandon Coleman, and had to punt again.
The Falcons got two quick first downs with passes to Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and we were reminded of just how good those receiveres are. The Falcons seemed to fizzle out on third down when Mohamed Sanu couldn’t come up with the ball, but Atlanta got lucky with a ticky tack roughing the passer call on Sheldon Rankins that kept it alive. The Falcons were largely able to take advantage, with Devonta Freeman running for three straight plays and getting a first down, and then two nice Austin Hooper catches getting the Falcons close. Then the Falcons got very, very close but Freeman got stuffed, an attempted touchdown pass to Ty Sambrailo (???) did not work, and the Falcons were on third down. Thankfully, Devonta Freeman easily punched it in.
Falcons 10 - Saints 3
The Saints, unfortunately, answered in short order. The Falcons absolutely blew it on a long touchdown pass to Tommy Lee Lewis, with Brees looking off the defender, connecting on the pass, and Keanu Neal missing a tackle. That led to a tie game.
Falcons 10 - Saints 10
Atlanta had a little under two minutes and started from their own 30 after a nice Andre Roberts return, and they were able to pick up a first down in about a minute. They got moving (which is nice!), but the clock rolled all the way down to 12 seconds without the Falcons using their second time out, for some reason. Dan Quinn’s clock management swiftly came under fire again. The Falcons called a timeout after a Taylor Gabriel catch was reviewed, and Matt Ryan immediately threw a pick to a hyper-alert Marshon Lattimore, giving the Saints a chance at a long field goal with four seconds left.
Will Lutz hit that field goal, but the Saints got dinged for an illegal formation, the referees couldn’t put time back on the clock, and we were at halftime.
Matt Ryan literally turned around and threw a pick on the first offensive play of the half, on a ball that bounced off of Austin Hooper’s hands and into a defender’s waiting arms.
The Saints connected with Mark Ingram out of the backfield for a 20 yard pickup, bringing them inside the ten yard line right away. On third down, Drew Brees was able to find Michael Thomas outside, and the Saints had the lead.
Falcons 10 - Saints 17
Atlanta’s next drive featured a lot of angry running that got them into the red zone, and then the Falcons elected to go to the pass. Matt Ryan just missed Julio Jones low close to the end zone, and then threw an absolutely atrocious interception targeting Julio Jones at the back of the end zone. The Saints defender took it out about five yards, and that was that.
Fortunately, the defense was up to the task, and was able to get a stop and force a punt. Credit Deion Jones for a nice open field tackle and a pass breakup to help out there.
The Falcons got a Mohamed Sanu first down and then a beautiful sideline pass to Julio Jones, but Jones got called for a questionable penalty, the Falcons were forced to replay second down, and Matt Ryan got absolutely destroyed. On third and 20, Ryan could only find Sanu for a short pickup, and Atlanta had to punt.
The Saints were looking to salt the game away on their next drive, but they couldn’t get it done. A loss on first down, a short pass on second down, and then a Dontari Poe sack of Drew Brees ended that drive. Punt.
The Falcons wisely gave it to Devonta Freeman twice to start the next drive, and he gave them a quick nine yards. Then the Saints got hit with a penalty. Then Matt Ryan almost threw yet another pick to Manti Te’o, but the Saints got popped with yet another penalty. Quarter over.
The quarter began with a first down run for Tevin Coleman, followed by another impressive run that was wiped out by a holding call. Then the Saints got popped with a call that gave the Falcons a first down, and then Tevin Coleman ran for nine. Devonta Freeman ran hard for the first down, Matt Ryan found Julio Jones over the middle for a first down, and the Falcons got into the red zone on a nice Devonta Freeman run. The Falcons got into the red zone, and despite a very weak Matt Ryan slide on second down, got the touchdown on a nice third down pass to Mohamed Sanu over the middle.
Falcons 17 - Saints 17
The Saints managed a quick first down on the next drive, but that was all they could do. The next series was defined by a huge third down sack by Adrian Clayborn, who kept battling after being driven way behind Drew Brees and was able to catch the Saints quarterback from behind. That led to a punt.
The Falcons got a nice Mohamed Sanu grab for a first down, a strong Tevin Coleman run, and then a Coleman run that went nowhere and may have gotten him a head injury. Thankfully, the third down play was a Julio Jones catch for an easy first down. Unfortunately, the Falcons got nothing on their next three plays, which set Matt Bryant up for a 52 yard field goal attempt. Bryant, of course, nailed it.
Falcons 20 - Saints 17
Brees hit Michael Thomas for a 30 yard pickup, and then on the next play, Thomas got poked in the eye by Desmond Trufant and had to exit the game. Then Mark Ingram picked up a first down and got hurt. The Saints just were experiencing an unbelievable run of injuries in this game. The Saints got their way into field goal range, wound up on 3rd and short and failed to convert, and then Dan Quinn declined a holding call. The Saints went for it on fourth and short and picked it up, extending the drive. Then Ted Ginn picked up a first down. Then...Drew Brees threw it over the middle and threw it right into the hands of a leaping Deion Jones, who picked the pass to save the drive.
The Falcons ran the ball, fumbled it and recovered it, and saw the game essentially end because Sean Payton ran on the field to argue and picked up a 15 yard penalty. Ballgame, Falcons.