The Falcons blew out the Saints. And then they didn’t. And then they came back to win it. Nutty things always happen in matchups between these two teams and Sunday was not short on wacky moments.
A.J. Terrell’s PBU in the second quarter
A.J. came to play. Charting possibly his finest game as a professional, Terrell continued to build on his burgeoning reputation as a lockdown NFL cornerback. That was apparent on his first-quarter pass breakup to prevent a third-down conversion.
Terrell kept right with New Orleans wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith on a dig route and got his mitts on the football to force the Saints to punt.
The young corner continues to impress and silence preemptive critics along the way.
Atlanta’s offensive drive before halftime
The best offensive drive this team has pieced together the entire season. Up by a scant three points, Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense engineered a 15-play, 92-yard touchdown drive to enter the locker room up 10-0.
Ryan’s touchdown pass was marquee stuff, threading the needle between three converging defenders to hit wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus for the score from three yards out.
Zaccheaus’s two-touchdown day
To channel Dave Choate’s tweets: LLAMADAY had himself a LLAMAWEEK. Wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus enjoyed his first multiple touchdown day, kicked off by his second-quarter score on the quick reception from quarterback Matt Ryan.
His second was equally impressive, securing Matt Ryan’s pass to capitalize on the Saints’ fumble in the fourth quarter and move the scoreline to 24-6 after the extra point.
We didn’t expect it (although we should at this point), but those points would come in handy a few minutes later.
James Vaughters forces the fumble
Linebacker James Vaughters was signed to Atlanta’s 53-man roster ahead of Sunday’s clash with the Saints and he certainly made the most of it. His fourth-quarter strip-sack of New Orleans quarterback Trevor Siemian proved pivotal, allowing Atlanta to put up additional points to pad its lead late.
Matty to CP
That familiar feeling of, “Well, we’ve seen this before,” set in right after the Falcons surrendered the lead late in the fourth quarter. They allowed the Saints to score 18 unanswered points and take a 25-24 lead with less than a minute in regulation.
We have seen this before — but this time, it was the good type of familiarity. It was vintage Matt Ryan in a comeback situation.
On 1st-and-10 from the Saints’ 25-yard-line, Ryan uncorked a bomb to Cordarrelle Patterson for 64 yards down the sideline.
Yep, that man can still heave the deep ball. The pass-and-catch set up the eventual game-winner courtesy of the Younghoe Koo’s foot.
Mike Davis nearly blows it
All’s well that ends well, I suppose, but running back Mike Davis nearly blew the entire comeback attempt after Cordarrelle Patterson’s 64-yard catch-and-run by fumbling the football.
He was lackadaisical on his carry and it would have cemented this as another one of the Falcons’ awful collapses — with the added bonus of it coming against the Saints.
The Feleipe Franks experiment
Feleipe Franks is an intriguing athlete, and he certainly has traits that Atlanta can look to exploit by deploying him on the opposition — whether under center or split out as a tight end. The time for that is not in the fourth quarter with the Saints in the midst of a comeback attempt and simply needing to convert to drain the clock.
On second-and-long, Arthur Smith inexplicably rolled in Franks to take the snap and do ... a thing. It was not the thing Smith envisioned, as Franks was dropped for a one-yard loss on the play.
The Falcons would go on to punt three plays later after a couple of Matt Ryan sacks.
This type of hijinks nearly cost Atlanta the game.