A gritty rivalry between two NFC South teams resulted in an overtime loss for the Falcons. Here is what we learned from the annual matchup with the Saints.
The rivalry between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints goes way beyond the football. There’s pure hatred and very little respect between the respective cities and fan bases.
When these two teams meet on the gridiron, there is a sure bet for fireworks to occur. This edition of the rivalry was no exception.
The 43-37 loss is a bitter one, and in the midst of the game, the Falcons lost an underrated piece of their defense in safety Ricardo Allen to a season-ending Achilles injury (thanks Adam Caplan). They also unquestionably showed why the losses of Deion Jones and Keanu Neal were monumental in their own right. I know some fans may not want to hear it either, but the tackling by the Falcons defense was an eyesore, and I’m being nice.
The arrival of a special receiver was also the talk of the game here as rookie Calvin Ridley introduced himself to the Saints and the rivalry with seven catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns, including a beautiful 75-yard touchdown reception. Play calling from offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was excellent, and for the second week in a row, the second-year assistant drew fewer and fewer critics.
I refuse to jump the gun here, but the way the offense has played after their flat display against Philadelphia in Week 1 is a very welcome sight. This is without the services of their No. 1 running back and now their starting left guard, who is on injured reserve for the rest of the season.
But this was a game that had an equal share of good and bad. The “bad” in this matchup was evident in all four quarters, and it is something that you don’t expect to see from a team that is a full season removed from a Super Bowl appearance. The amount of injuries on this team is enough to make any team or any head coach considerably worried. Ironically, it was a team that had a machine on offense and a so-so defensive unit that won 11 games in 2016 and found themselves Super Bowl bound.
History could repeat itself with this team. However, the odds are not reliable. Not only will the players on the field have to step up, but more is being called for from the coaching staff. As we saw in this game against New Orleans, decision making, even in the early stages of the game, can prove to be critical in a one-score loss.
The season is far from lost for the Falcons. It’s not even the end of the opening month of the season. However, circumstances such as this will be a real test for the entire franchise. From top to bottom.