On the Saints first offensive play of the day, Drew Brees drops back, throws a pass, and it is intercepted by Asante Samuel. The Falcons had just scored a touchdown, and now they were 12 yards from another touchdown to go up 14 points only five minutes into the game. Instead, Samuel had an excessive celebration penalty that cost the Falcons 15 yards. So the Falcons get the ball at the Saints 27, and then Michael Turner themselves into a 4th down. Unwilling to go for it on 4th that early in the game, they kicked a field goal, putting them up 10 points. Still a good lead, but wouldn’t you like the extra 4 points? The penalty really cost them, and so did two carries for a total of 2 yards from Turner.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Falcons had a short yardage opportunity. After getting a huge passing play from Julio Jones, they got the ball at the New Orleans 5-yard line. First & goal from the N.O. 5. Gotta find a way to punch the ball in. They run the ball with Turner for no gain, then have a 3-yard pass to Jacquizz Rodgers, and an incomplete pass intended for Jones. Fourth down, and the Falcons once again kick a field goal. Another huge missed opportunity.
With 5 minutes to go in the game, the Falcons drive the ball from their own 20, to the Saints 10-yard line. A 9-yard pass to Harry Douglas makes it look like an Atlanta touchdown is imminent. But then an incomplete pass to Gonzalez happens, and the Falcons hand the ball to Michael Turner. Obviously that play went for a loss of one yard, bringing up 4th down. The Falcons had to go for it, and Matt Ryan was unable to keep the pass from being batted down. Wish he had seen Gonzalez open on the right side of the end zone, but it should have never come to that. Turner has to do a much better job of punching it in from the 1-yard line.
The final missed opportunity for the Falcons came on 3rd down on their last possession of the game. Matt Ryan, who had been sparkling all day long on passes deep down the field, had Roddy White open down the field. There was a little contact between White and the defensive back, but no flag was called. Rather than continue running and reel in the catch, White turned back to contact the defender, then tried to continue running. By that time, it was too late, and the pass flew harmlessly four yards over his head. Had he not stopped, it would have been a perfect pass and an easy game winning touchdown. It was simply a great opportunity that was missed by the Falcons.
Every team misses opportunities in every game. The Saints likely missed a couple themselves. But I think the Falcons missed opportunities are really glaring and really hurt the team today. There were so many points left on the field in New Orleans, it’s not even funny. I think the Falcons will be beside themselves when they look at the film this week and all the things that they didn’t do that could have really changed the outcome of the game.