There are some games that are difficult to explain. Even more complex to summarize. The 20-17 victory over arch-rival New Orleans Saints fit the bill there. It is hard to truly put a finger on.
Maturation is needed for teams, especially young ones, to navigate through the regular season into the playoffs and beyond. The regular season is bound to present tests that challenges the mental competitiveness as well as the physical approach to the contest. After a season in which the Atlanta Falcons rolled over a number of opponents en-route to the Super Bowl, the Falcons find themselves in the midst of a season in which they are finding a different identity.
It has been noted that games against the Saints in recent past have always been rugged, personal, and at times, somewhat nutty.
This latest matchup was no exception.
Seeing quarterback Matt Ryan toss three interceptions can literally suck any good vibes out of the normal Falcons fan. Watching receiver Julio Jones blow up walking off the field after the first of those Ryan interceptions can spark the brain of the causal viewer to thinking that trouble is brewing. On a night where the Falcons needed to throw every jab, hook, and roundhouse punch they could, they did exactly just that. Even when things were not as necessarily rosy as the all-red color rush uniforms that touched the field.
For the past few seasons, Atlanta has pieced together a defensive unit that has young assets on every level. In the previous seasons before this, Falcons fans had to dreadfully moan as the defense takes the field, knowing that big plays and/or a score were bound to transpire.
So far this season, that same defense that has plenty of young talent with eight starters from the 2013-2016 drafts, are starting to win games for a team that has taken an offensive identity since Ryan was drafted in 2008. With the game on the line and up by a field goal, the defense had to make a play against one of the top quarterbacks in the last 15 years.
Stood tall they did. Before Deion Jones soared for a game-clinching interception to slam the door on their rival, it appeared as if Brees was on his way to adding another notch to that reputation of his. Instead, the Falcons outlasted their rival in a game that they needed more than any other game they have played this season. The offense had their lumps but of course, when plays were needed, Freeman racked up chunk rushing yards, Sanu made clutch catches, Julio showed his uncommon talent, and Ryan led the team in crunch time.
However, what we learned was that this team is showing growth. Growth that only great teams are capable of showing.