The Falcons come into this game with virtually no hope of making the playoffs and the employment of head coach Dan Quinn on perilously thin ice. Without star receiving options Julio Jones and Austin Hooper, Matt Ryan and the offense have a formidable test ahead of them. Likewise, the Saints were missing key starters at left tackle and left guard, making one wonder if Atlanta could repeat their 6 sack performance two weeks ago. How did it play out? Read on for the details.
After winning the coin toss, Atlanta opts to start on offense. Starting from their own 25, the offense opens with Matt Ryan getting sacked by Marcus Davenport. Oh god. On 2nd and 17, the Devonta Freeman up the middle goes for no gain. On 3rd down, Ryan connects with Calvin Ridley but he’s tackled well short of the sticks. Atlanta punts, and the Saints block it, recovering on the Falcons 30 yard line.
Drew Brees starts by connecting with Michael Thomas for 5 yards. On 2nd and 5, Brees finds Taysom Hill in the flat for a first down reception. Alvin Kamara follows that with a big 14 yard run to setup 1st and goal from the 3. Brees finishes off the short drive with a pass to Taysom Hill for the 3 yard touchdown.
Falcons 0, Saints 7
Kenjon Barner sets the offense up nicely with a 47 yard return. The offense starts on their own 45 with a 3 yard run by Freeman. On 2nd and 7, Ryan finds Ridley for 6 and sets up a very short 3rd and 1. After fullback Keith Smith converts the first down, Freeman picks up 4 yards on an outside run. After an ineffective run on 2nd, on 3rd and 7 Ryan can’t connect with Christian Blake. They punt and pin the Saints inside their 5.
Brees and the Saints start with a 1 yard run by Latavius Murray. On 2nd and 9, Brees connects with Michael Thomas for the 14 yard gain and the first down. After another ineffective run by Murray, Alvin Kamara picks up 5 yards on the short pass. On 3rd and 5, Thomas is hit hard by Ricardo Allen and can’t pull in the pass. Saints punt.
The Falcons offense starts on their own 25 with a Freeman run up the middle for 2 yards. Ryan throws a bullet to Christian Blake to setup 3rd and 1. On the money down, Ryan connects with Blake for 12 yards and the first down. Marshon Lattimore gets called for the cheap shot after the pass and gifts the Falcons 15 more yards. Devonta picks up 8 nice yards on the following run, but offsetting penalties cancel the play. On the next play, Cameron Jordan gets the sack on Matt Ryan for a 1 yard loss. On 2nd and 10, Freeman picks up 5 yards on the run. On 3rd and 5, Ryan targets Ridley but Eli Apple gets flagged for one of the most blatant PI calls you’ll ever see. After Devonta picks up nothing on 1st and 10 from the 11, and Ryan throws it away on 2nd down, Ryan connects with Russell Gage who is stopped a yard shy to set up 4th and 1 from the 2. With an important decision looming, we hit the end of the first quarter.
Falcons 0, Saints 7
To start the second quarter, Ryan looks for Christian Blake when he had Ridley open in the end zone and they are unable to convert the fourth down. Saints take over.
The Saints take over on their own 2 with a quick slant to Thomas for 6 yards. After Brees throws it away after being pressured on 2nd down, the run by Kamara goes nowhere thanks to Grady Jarrett. The Saints are forced to punt.
Starting from their 45, Ryan can’t connect with Christian Blake on the deep cross. On 2nd and 10, Freeman picks up 2 and on the 3rd down, Ridley gets the PI call on a Ryan underthrow. On 1st and 10 from the Saints 18, Ryan connects with Jaeden Graham for the touchdown, his first ever in the NFL. Younghoe Koo misses the extra point.
Falcons 6, Saints 7
The Saints offense starts on their 19 with a pass to Jared Cook for 14 yards and the first down. After a 1 yard run by Murray, a neutral zone infraction by Adrian Clayborn sets up 2nd and 4 for New Orleans. Brees converts the 1st with a pass to Tre’Quan Smith and follows it up with a big gain to Jared Cook after Ricardo Allen misses the tackle. On 1st and goal, Kamara picks up a few on the run up the middle. On 2nd and goal, Brees can’t connect with Josh Hill. On 3rd down, Brees hits Jared Cook in the hands but he can’t pull it down. The Saints go for the short field goal and punch it in.
Falcons 6, Saints 10
The Falcons offense starts with a terrible TE screen that loses 2 yards. Ryan connects with Ridley for 13 yards and the first down to make up for it. Brian Hill picks up 6 yards on 1st down and another 9 on second down to move the sticks. Unfortunately, Hill’s third straight run is blown up for a 3 yard loss. On 2nd and 13, Ryan finds Kenjon Barner for the quick pass that goes for 13 and the first down. Ryan continues feeding his running backs by finding Brian Hill for the 12 yard gain. After Freeman picks up 3 yards on a 1st down run, Ryan can’t connect with Keith Smith on the deep sideline pass. On 3rd and 7, Ryan connects with Russell Gage but it’s overturned on the challenge by the Saints. The Falcons opt for the 42 yard field goal and Koo can’t connect.
Falcons 6, Saints 10
Brees starts their drive by connecting with a wide-open Jared Cook for 29 yards and the first down. After Kamara loses a yard on the first down run, on 2nd and 11 Brees passes to him for 10 yards. After the two minute warning, on 3rd and 1, Taysom Hill picks up 30 yards on the run from the QB position for the touchdown.
Falcons 6, Saints 17
Ryan starts the following offensive drive with an 8 yard pass to Blake. He finds Gage for 8 yards and the first down. After a false start sets up 2nd and 15, Ryan is sacked. On 3rd and 17, Russell Gage takes the screen pass 14 yards to set up 4th and 3. Atlanta decides to go for it and Matt Ryan runs to pick up the first. Ryan connects with Justin Hardy for the 10 yard gain to put the ball on the Saints 28. With 8 seconds left, Koo comes on for the 45 yard field goal attempt and nails it.
Falcons 9, Saints 17
After a good return is called back by a penalty, the Saints offense starts on their own 9 with a pass from Brees to Thomas for 6. On 2nd and 4, Kamara picks up 4 on the quick pass for the first down. After a drop by Thomas on 1st down, and Kamara picking up 5 on 2nd, on 3rd and 5 the Saints can’t keep the drive alive as Brees can’t connect with Kamara. Saints punt.
Starting from their own 34, the Falcons offense starts with Devonta Freeman run for 4 yards. Ryan’s pass to Freeman goes for no gain and on 3rd and 6, Ryan is sacked again. The Falcons are forced to punt.
The Saints start with two straight runs that pick up the easy first down. After Brees connects with Tre’Quan Smith for 5 yards, Taysom Hill picks up 3 on the run to set up 3rd and 2. Brees connects with Michael Thomas for 5 yards to keep the drive going. Alvin Kamara gashes the Falcons for 24 yards on the next run and the easy 1st. On 2nd and 9, the Falcons blow up the attempted pass by Taysom Hill to force 3rd and 9. DeVondre Campbell bats down the 3rd down screen pass to Kamara and forces the Saints to try the 47 yard field goal, which they hit.
Falcons 9, Saints 20
After the touchback, Ryan and the offense start with an incomplete pass to Calvin Ridley. After a Freeman run picks up 3, on 3rd and 7, Ryan connects with Christian Blake for 7 yards and the first down. On 2nd and 7, Ryan finds Calvin Ridley for 15 yards and the first down. After a 6 yard run by Freeman, Ryan connects with him for the 3 yard pass to set up 3rd and 1. Keith Smith picks up the first down yet again on the short run. Unfortunately, Ryan is picked off, ending the promising Falcons drive.
After a poor run and a missed deep ball to Jared Cook, on 3rd and 11, Brees is forced to throw it away. The Falcons defense forces the 3 and out.
After a false start, on 1st and 13, Freeman picks up 6 to set up 2nd and 7. Ryan connects with Ridley for 20 yards and the first down on the next play and the end of the quarter.
Falcons 9, Saints 20
Starting from their own 27, Freeman sets up 2nd and 6 after a 4 yard run. His next run picks up 5 to set up 3rd and 1. Ryan finds Christian Blake for the 15 yard gain and the first down. After a Freeman run for 3 yards, Ryan passes to Barner and loses 7 yards to set up 3rd and 14. Matt Ryan is intercepted again on the subsequent pass.
The Saints offense takes over again and after two straight ineffective plays sets up 3rd and 10. After only gaining 5, they opt for the 42-yard field goal, which they punch in easily.
Falcons 9, Saints 23
On the first play of the drive, Matt Ryan is sacked by Cameron Jordan again. On 2nd and 19, Ryan targets Christian Blake, who gets the DPI call and the first down. After a short run and short pass set up 3rd and 5, Ryan runs the ball but is drilled and fumbles the ball, which the Saints recover.
After a run for no gain, Brees finds Thomas for 10 and the first down. On the subsequent 3rd and 8, Deion Jones defends Kamara perfectly and forces the 4th down. The Saints knock in the field goal to extend their lead.
Falcons 9, Saints 26
After Ryan connects with Jaeden Graham for 2 yards, Ryan connects with Christian Blake for the first down. Devonta picks up 7 on the first down pass and on 2nd and 3, Ryan finds Ridley for the first down. After Ryan scrambles for 7, Ryan connects with Brian Hill for another first down. Ryan connects on the big pass to Jaeden Graham. After an incomplete pass on 1st down, Ryan connects with Russell Gage for the 13 yard touchdown. Atlanta goes for 2, which Ridley does not get.
Falcons 15, Saints 26
After getting called for offsides on the first onsides kick, the Falcons kick it again and recover again. The Falcons offense takes over on their 41 and Ryan is immediately sacked. Of. Course. Ryan connects with Gage to setup 3rd and 14. On the money down, Ridley is unable to pull it in. On 4th down, Ryan finds Ridley for 14 and the first down. On 2nd and 10, Ryan finds Hardy for 6 yards. He then finds Ridley on 3rd down for the big gain to the Saints 25 as we go to the 2 minute warning. Koo comes out and nails the 43-yard field goal to bring the lead to just 8 points with 1:56 remaining.
Falcons 18, Saints 26
Unbelievably, the Falcons recover ANOTHER onside kick. Ryan, of course, is sacked to start the drive. After Ryan connects with Freeman on the pass to set up 3rd and 8, Ryan looks to be sacked, but the Saints are called for a hands to the face penalty, giving Atlanta the first down. On 1st down, Ryan is sacked for the 8th time. On 2nd and 17, Ryan finds Hardy to set up 3rd and 8. He’s forced to throw it away, setting up the 4th down. Unfortunately, Ryan is sacked yet again to fittingly end the game.
Final: Falcons 18, Saints 26