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Falcons 37 - Saints 43 final score: It wasn’t enough

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The offense fought like hell, but the defense was depleted and the Saints were too good, and it’s a loss.

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints rarely play boring games. This was not one of them.

Both teams could not be stopped on offense for huge chunks of the game, leading to an overtime at an incredible 37-37. The Falcons simply looked dismal for large chunks of the game on D, with one sack and very little stopping ability minus three of their better defenders. The Saints, meanwhile, looked like one of the worst defenses in the NFL, which I suppose is a cheerful note.

Atlanta tried repeatedly to put this one away, and perhaps with Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and Takkarist McKinley playing, they would have. Alas, they were putrid defensively far too often in this one, repeatedly ruining tremendous offensive efforts en route to the fourth quarter tie. A Ricardo Allen injury in overtime made things even worse, and the Falcons did ultimately lose.

This game hurts so bad because the offense was tremendous, but the Saints are too good on offense when they’re firing on all cylinders, and the Falcons defense was just too weak today. At 1-2, Atlanta’s facing major injury issues and has a ton of a questions going forward. It’s a heartbreaking loss, full stop.

On to the full recap.

First Quarter

The Saints started with the ball, and perhaps the most demoralizing drive they could have put together. They moved the ball at will, picking up huge chunks of yardage and erasing about 60 yards in the blink of an eye with throws to Mike Thomas and Alvin Kamara, plus Kamara on the ground. They finished things off with a third down touchdown pass to Ted Ginn that saw Robert Alford miss a tackle.

Falcons 0 - Saints 7

The Falcons came out needing to show some urgency and...did not. A short incompletion to Mohamed Sanu, a holding call on Jake Matthews, a three yard run for Tevin Coleman and a 12 yard pass to Austin Hooper ended the drive for Atlanta. Punt.

The Saints didn’t look nearly as impressive on the second drive, picking up one yard, an incomplete pass, and an eight yard completion that fell just shy of a first down. Thankfully, New Orleans punted.

The Falcons ground to life on the next one, starting their drive by picking up a first down on a run and two short passes. The ground game did nothing, but Ryan consistently found options to move the chains in the air. Calvin Ridley caught a first down and ran for 10 on consecutive plays, showcasing that fearsome speed. Ridley dominated the drive, in fact, and wound up catching a beautiful 18 yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan.

Falcons 7 - Saints 7

The Saints weren’t going to take that lying down, of course. Brees got in a rhythm and got them across midfield before the quarter ended.

Second Quarter

The Saints did stall out, as the Falcons did a nice job in coverage against Alvin Kamara. Punt.

The Falcons found an immediate first down to Calvin Ridley, but then foolishly turned their back on throwing the ball to Calvin Ridley. That resulted in four yards on two plays and then a big loss on a Marcus Davenport sack. Punt.

A Drew Brees 25 yard pass started things off for New Orleans, which is pretty suboptimal. A big holding call on Ben Watson and an incomplete pass later, the Saints were staring down 2nd and 18. They managed to pick up 10 and get into field goal range, and Will Lutz barely got the 49 yarder over.

Falcons 7 - Saints 10

Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for 17, but then missed deep to Calvin Ridley and saw Tevin Coleman pick up nothing on the ground. A missed connection to Coleman later aided by a probable missed pass interference call, the Falcons had to punt again.

As was custom, the Saints connected on a 17 yard pass to start things off. A Brian Poole roughing the passer penalty and a deep pass to Ben Watson put the Saints on the cusp of scoring, but a holding call backed them up anew. The Saints picked up a ton of yards but still fell short of the end zone thanks to penalties, settling for a short field goal.

Falcons 7 - Saints 13

The Falcons looked like they’d do the same old stuff on this drive, but that was before Calvin Ridley ran a brilliant route, Matt Ryan delivered a nice ball, and the rookie scored on a 75 yard touchdown grab. He was simply dominating the Saints at this point, and the Falcons had the lead back.

Falcons 14 - Saints 13

The Saints couldn’t get it done. Two straight missed completions, a penalty, and another incompletion doomed New Orleans and forced them to punt.

Now the Falcons had the ball without much time left and a lot of field ahead of them. They did nothing with it, choosing to run and throw and not execute effectively (okay, I doubt they chose to do that) and wound up punting with over 40 seconds to go.

Predictably, the Saints made them pay, moving downfield fast enough to set up a Will Lutz field goal to give them the lead back going into halftime. Thankfully, the Falcons got the ball first.

Falcons 14 - Saints 16

Halftime.

Third Quarter

With the ball back, the Falcons turned back to the Calvin Ridley show, with decidedly delightful results. Ridley picked up a 45 yard pass interference call and then scored his third touchdown of the game, putting the Falcons back in the lead. Whatever superlatives you wanted to lay on Ridley at this point in the game were justified, and then some.

Falcons 21 - Saints 16

The Saints needed to score before Calvin Ridley somehow got the ball back, and they did not do that. Penalties, short passes and a Vic Beasley sack doomed the drive for New Orleans, forcing them to punt.

The Falcons had to punt, too, after their series produced nothing but a Wes Schweitzer penalty. Unfortunately, Matt Bosher’s punt was blocked and the Saints recovered, putting them close to the end zone.

The Saints took full advantage. Atlanta’s defense sort of looked like they might hold for a couple of plays, but the Saints scored a touchdown to put them ahead by two points. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

Falcons 21 - Saints 23

The Falcons knew they needed points. They mixed up plays well on the following drive, having success targeting everyone from Mohamed Sanu to Ito Smith in the passing game as they painstakingly worked their way downfield. Ito was particularly great in the passing game, and the Falcons worked their way deep into the red zone before the third quarter ended.

Fourth Quarter

The Falcons finished what they started, with Matt Ryan capping off the drive with a short touchdown pass to Tevin Coleman, his fourth such pass of the day. A two point conversion to Austin Hooper also was successful, giving Atlanta a six point lead.

Falcons 29 - Saints 23

A nightmare run by Taysom Hill and a horse collar tackle on Brian Poole put the Falcons in a bad spot pretty quickly. They managed to somehow force the Saints into fourth down mere feet away from a touchdown, but they converted on fourth down, scored the extra point, and went up by one point.

Falcons 29 - Saints 30

The Falcons were engaged in a ping pong match and needed to score, or whatever you call it in ping pong. A 58 yard pass to Julio Jones helped them get close to scoring, but ultimately, a key third down sack from Cam Jordan (cursed be his name) erased any chance the Falcons had of scoring yet another touchdown. They settled for a field goal, but that did give them the lead.

Falcons 32 - Saints 30

OR NOT! A Saints penalty nullified the field goal, and the Falcons not only scored a touchdown but also scored a two point conversion.

Falcons 37 - Saints 30

The Saints weren’t about to lie down. They were able to move down the field yet again and set themselves up to score, as the Falcons defense continued to be shakier than an overdue continental shelf. It ended with the Saints scoring a touchdown on a seven yard Drew Brees scramble, which is both the most pathetic and appropriate ending for such a drive.

Falcons 37 - Saints 37

This was it, a chance to end the game without going to overtime. They got moving early with time running, but couldn’t convert. A punt from Matt Bosher later and we were gearing up for overtime.

Sure enough, the Saints kneeled.

Overtime

The Saints won the toss. They marched down the field and Ricardo Allen got hurt, which seemed to spell doom for the Falcons. Then they kept marching, overcoming a borderline call on a third down, and and got down to the red zone having burned over ten minutes off the clock in OT. The end result was a Saints touchdown, unfortunately.

Falcons 37 - Saints 43