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Falcons vs. Saints: Hat Tips & Head-Scratchers

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What a day in New Orleans.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This feature usually just laments how awful the Atlanta Falcons are — but not this week. Looking like a vastly different team from the first eight games, the Falcons moseyed into New Orleans and completely shut down the Saints. It was ethereal.

Not much to gripe about in this week’s edition of Hat Tips & Head-Scratchers. Let’s continue to soak in that victory against New Orleans.

Hat Tips

The first offensive drive

The Falcons kicked this contest off with a bang. Dirk Koetter dialed up a jet sweep to Calvin Ridley for the first play of the game, a run that went for 19 yards. Devonta Freeman chipped in with a couple of long rushes of his own to convert first downs, and Kenjon Barner took a direct snap for 12 deep into New Orleans territory.

The offense was exceptional until the penalty scourge showed its face in the red zone, with the Falcons settling for a field goal by Younghoe Koo.

While only netting three points after such a solid start is frustrating, it was the best opening offensive drive of Atlanta’s season.

The defense

Yes, I know it feels slightly insane to see Atlanta’s defense filed under the ‘hat tips’ section, but they were downright scary in this matchup. The pass rush consistently harassed Drew Brees, leading to six sacks when all was said and done. Holding the Saints without a single touchdown is a massive feat in and of itself, but the fact that it was the Falcons defense that accomplished it (and on the road, to boot) makes this unit deserving of utmost praise.

What a game on the defensive side of the ball.

Matt Ryan’s scrambling

An often overlooked and under-appreciated aspect of his game, Matt Ryan scrambled for two clutch first downs in this one — and on a bum wheel, as well. The first was a fourth-and-4 conversion in the first quarter that eventually led to the Falcons’ first touchdown of the day.

The second was another key run to convert a third-and-8 in Saints territory late in the third quarter. Not too shabby for a quarterback coming off of a high ankle sprain.

Koo’s debut

The kicking situation in Atlanta has been less than optimal so far this season, but with new addition Younghoe Koo’s debut, you should be feeling some confidence ahead of this Sunday’s game against the Panthers. Koo went a perfect 4/4 in field goal attempts, including a long 48-yarder in the fourth quarter.

He also went 2/2 in extra points.

Head-Scratchers

The first offensive drive

Penalties have plagued the Atlanta Falcons this season — especially in scoring situations. While the offense was churning on its opening possession, the penalties struck once more, denying the Falcons a first quarter touchdown. Kaleb McGary was called for a false start, Jamon Brown received a penalty for another false start on the ensuing play, and James Carpenter topped up the penalty triumvirate with offensive holding.

Atlanta came away with points courtesy of Younghoe Koo’s first field goal in a Falcons uniform, but getting in their own way via penalties has been a consistent in 2019.