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Twist Ending Revives Falcons Playoff Hopes

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The Falcons’ win over the Saints provides the twist that could spring Atlanta into January football.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Like when Darth Vader told Luke he was his daddy, or when Bruce Willis found out he was dead the whole time, twist endings have a way of sneaking up on you.

Sometimes, they ruin the entire movie, and sometimes, it makes the entire thing worthwhile. Thursday night, a lot of dry-heaving Falcons fans would have benefited from a spoiler alert.

Boy howdy. Did M. Night Shyamalan direct this football game?

Right at the end of yet another bizarro Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints game, Drew Brees and company looked primed to score to take the lead – yes, the lead that would have probably ended the Falcons season.

No, don’t take me for being a drama queen. The Falcons’ hopes of making the playoffs died with a loss Thursday. Lose this, and you’re 0-2 against the NFC top dogs, you’re really beginning to feel the heat of desperation with three more divisional games on the horizon (including one in the Big Not So Easy), and math might just stick you over in the end, with potential MVP Russell Wilson carrying the Seahawks over you to playoff jubilation.

But, that wasn’t the ending, was it?

No, no, Deion Jones, killer of Saints, picked Brees off.

Once again, the Falcons ward off the cold hand coming from the grave. This time, it came with a firm slap.

Heck, for all we know, that was the final jolt of lightening needed to wake up a sleeping monster.

Football is forever funny. Just look at how the Falcons played before the fourth quarter. After a pretty solid first half against a no-nonsense defense, a calamitous comedy of errors led to Dan Quinn botching the clock management, and Matt Ryan throwing the most nauseating interception this side of Williams Street.

Then, to start the third half? A wet noodle attempt by Austin Hooper to corral in a fine pass from Ryan led to an interception deep on the Falcons’ side of the field. It was the worst thing that’s happened in a regular season Falcons game, by far, since D’Quell Jackson picked Ryan off for a touchdown in 2015.

The Saints would score, taking a 17-10 lead, and setting the burners on hot for any cool-headed birds fan. It just wasn’t looking good from that vantage point, particularly after Ryan threw a third pick in the end zone on a potentially game-tying drive.

The Falcons did everything they could to both win and lose this game. That third pick should have been the dagger. But it wasn’t.

Some impressive stops by the defense and two fiery comeback drives (mainly with the legs of fellow another Saintslayer, Devonta Freeman) helped the Falcons, by some strange stroke of luck, take the lead late.

But then, the Saints.

But then, the Falcons!?!

After a final little lurch of terror with a ball fumbled on the salt-the-clock drive for Atlanta (saved by Wes Schweitzer, who you all owe an apology after bailing on him in Week One), it was over.

Every movie has to get to the credits at some point, even the wild, twisty ones.

Everything in this Falcons game gives you every spectrum of hope for the future, including the part where there is none.

The Falcons barely beat a Saints team without its new star offensive player in Alvin Kamara (who was MIA after a drive that might have indicated what it would have been like had he stayed in) and a bunch of other players.

The Falcons also won a game against one of the best teams in the NFL on a night when its quarterback was in a visible funk.

These Falcons can do anything, and nothing, all at once. They might be the best and worst team in football, combined. They make no sense, and sometimes, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.

We still have no idea what this football team boils down to, but maybe, we do.

They’re imperfect. They make the dumbest mistakes. But, then they go and win you over right like that. Everything goes every which way but up, and then there they are on the other side of the storm, staring down at you, wondering why you’re in the fetal position.

Make no mistake – that win is gigantic. It’s a revitalizing blast to the spine after that Minnesota game. It’s a confidence builder and a half. They were visibly disappointed Sunday. They’re definitely celebrating tonight. Forget doing it prettily – that’s a divisional game. You just win that one if you can.

It’s getting to the point with this team where you just kind of have to show up and see what happens. Each week is just something new – sometimes exhilarating, sometimes crushing. You can say *a lot* about this team, but they’re never boring. They’re *never* boring.

Unlike Minnesota, you can really tell what this outcome reveals. Forget how Atlanta got the “W” for a second – they got it. But then think about how they got it. But then, remember, they got it.

A dropped touchdown from beating Carolina, a play away from beating the Vikings.

What happens when this team gets it all together?

Stagnant offense against Minnesota, can’t stop Carolina’s run defense.

Is this Falcons team ever going to get it together?

Trying to find due north in 2017 will drive you mad.

There is no answer. This team is impossible to figure out.

But, they won.

And, they’re alive.

They might be not the best team in the NFL.

But, they might be one of the best deep down.

And, they might have just gotten the poke to awaken that dad gum consistency dragon that fell asleep for Atlanta at some point during the halftime of the Super Bowl.

We may never see him again.

He might be right around the corner.

No one has any idea.

But for the first time in 2017, that’s not such a bad thing.

What a twist.