Another season has come and gone, and with it another pair of grudge matches against the Saints as well, with this season’s rematch doubling down as the regular season finale with the stakes never higher as the winner of this one has a chance to also win the NFC South.
After the New Orleans Saints finally tied the all time head-to-head record against the Falcons last season, Atlanta restored some order and re-took the lead 55-54 earlier this season with a big win at home.
Before that triumph, the Falcons were in the middle of a skid which had seen them lose six games in seven meetings against their rivals, including three all within the 2022 calendar year.
The Falcons now have a chance to win consecutive games against New Orleans for the first time since the 2017 season, when Deion Jones’ end zone interception of Drew Brees solidified a third straight win in the matchup for the Birds following a 2016 sweep.
Both the Falcons and Saints had an extra week to think about losses they had suffered in Week 10, with a Week 11 bye coming for each before their first meeting of the season. New Orleans sat first in the NFC South with a 5-5 record, while the second placed Falcons (4-6) were in the midst of a brutal three game losing streak.
Atlanta got off to a poor start in this one as well, letting the Saints open the scoring behind a Blake Grupe field goal before turning the ball over on downs and allowing New Orleans to get right back into the red zone, poised to add to their lead. Star safety Jessie Bates then flipped the game on its head when he successfully baited and intercepted Derek Carr, bringing the ball back 92 yards for a touchdown.
The Falcons, who had been reeling (both in the game and during the season as a whole), seemed to have regained their swagger off that one play, and started punishing New Orleans behind their run game, while the defense kept bending but never breaking.
A couple of Desmond Ridder miscues which became Tyrann Mathieu interceptions along with the Saints’ ability to move the ball between the 20s with ease still saw New Orleans in position to re-take the lead going into the fourth quarter before Bates put on his cape once more and forced a Taysom Hill fumble which let Atlanta keep its advantage. On the ensuing drive, Ridder read a blitz perfectly and connected with Bijan Robinson for a decisive 26-yard touchdown which gave the Birds a 21-12 lead.
The Falcons saw the game off behind their clock killing run game from there and finished the afternoon not allowing a single touchdown, and in first place in the NFC South.