Even during their supposed ‘down year’, the Saints proved to be too much for the Falcons to handle.
The Saints have now won 11 out of their last 13 against the Falcons. In other words, this rivalry hasn’t been much of one since Drew Brees established himself the “Big Easy”. Even with the head coach Sean Payton suspended, Smitty and Matt Ryan couldn’t strike the knock-out blow to just about knock the Saints out the playoff race. Some analysts predicted the Falcons offense to dominate one of the worst statistical defenses in the history of the NFL. Some Falcon fans, like me, expected Atlanta to play their best football of the season against a division foe that has tyrannized them since 2006. The Falcons did put up a fight, but, Saints seem to perform their best magic tricks against Mike Smith. Their run defense toughened up, especially in the redzone and short yardages situations, while Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram tenderized the Falcons D-line…
Who would’ve thought they could fix their two biggest problems under a week?
So in the end, the Saints and their fans get to rejoice over yet another victory against an Atlanta team expecting to dominate the NFC South, whereas Mike Smith and Co. head home with question marks on offense and defense, with the ‘Can’t win the big game’ monkey still on their backs.
Matt Ryan had a marvelous game, as expected. He threw for 411 yards and 3 touchdowns against an abysmal pass defense that couldn’t slow him down, but, that wasn’t the stat of the night in my opinion. The fact that the offense could only muster 49 yards against a defense that allows 170 yards rushing a game should speak volumes to Mike Smith about the type of RB’s we have. Turner barely averaged over one yard a carry, while Jacquizz and Snelling were non-factors for the entire game. After the game, I came to the conclusion that the Falcons have two North-and-South runners and an undersized scat-back on their roster, a trio that can’t do much damage without a monster run-blocking O-line. A run game wouldn’t hurt this offense, but forcing the run on obvious run downs hurt Atlanta this game. I WOULD say it cost them the game, but I think Julio going down in the 1st quarter with an injury was much more significant…
How much so?
With Julio out of the lineup, Matt Ryan’s pass-per-attempt went from 9.1 to 5.1. He was 8-for-15 with one touchdown and one interception.
Prior to Julio leaving, he was 9 out of 9 for 114 yards and a touchdown. Good to know how irreplaceable Jones is. They just about regressed to Smitty ball without him. The Falcons also missed Sean Weatherspoon this game. Jimmy Graham had his way with Stephen Nicholas and the entire secondary, slicing them for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Our run defense also went back to normal after holding our last two opponents under 100 yards. Ivory and Ingram battered the Falcons defense for 148 yards, including a 56-yard, “BeastMode” like scamper by Ivory for a touchdown. The defensive line play was terrible also…Drew had a clean pocket for most of the game, and the few times they did get in his face, they couldn’t finish the play outside of a coverage sack by Nicholas.
This loss put all of the Falcons weaknesses on display. Our run game disappears when we need it most, due to the combination of a weak run blocking O-line and RB’s that can’t create when holes aren’t there. Our defense can’t tackle and struggle with physical runners like Ivory and Ingram. All-in-all, this is not a physical team. If the Falcons feel they’re SB contenders, they will learn from this and bounce back with a fire we haven’t seen since the San Diego game. Until then, question still remains….
Is this a SB caliber team? The debate of the Falcons being contenders-or-pretenders lingers on.