TNF: ATLANTA FALCONS vs NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
ATLANTA FALCONS vs NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
By: Robert L. Porter Jr
Thursday night in Atlanta is the stage for this NFC South showdown. Reigning MVP Matt Ryan and his Falcons host Drew Brees and the red hot Saints. The Saints are trying to hold on to their current playoff position, while the Falcons are fighting to get in and defend their NFC title from a year ago.
The Saints receive the opening kickoff and Drew Brees and his offense put together a nice drive that ended with a Will Lutz field goal to make it 3-0 but star rookie Alvin Kamara took a hard hit and was placed in the concussion protocol. On Atlantas first drive the running game was the formula to a solid possession. Matt Ryan only attempted 2 passes as the drive ends with a Matt Bryant field goal to knot us up at 3-3. On New Orleans next drive Brees was able to move them close to midfield but is unable to push into Falcons territory and they are forced to punt. The Falcons 2nd drive ended in a quick 3 & out with 1:12 remaining in the quarter. Two short plays by Sean Payton’s offense and we come to the end of the first period.
To start the 2nd quarter, the drive is extended on a nice 3rd down grab By WR Michael Thomas. With Kamara out the Saints running doesn’t look the same as Mark Ingram is met at the line by Falcons defenders on what feels like every carry. The drive would end rather quickly as they are forced to kick it away. Matt Ryan utilized the play action more as he marches his guys down the field. A few penalties moved them back but back-to-back passes to Austin Hooper puts them right back in scoring range. This drive took 15 plays and 8:30 off the clock as Devonta Freeman punches it in from 1 yard out to give the dirty birds the 10-3 lead. On their next possession it looks like the Saints noticed the same thing I did as the passing game is heavily featured to start this drive. Drew Brees looks sharp as he finds TommyLee Lewis for a 24 yard TD pass to tie this score up 10-10. With under 2 minutes the Falcons are looking for points before the half, passes to Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel put them in Saints territory. However with 14 seconds left, Ryan attempts another pass to Jones that is intercepted by Marshon Lattimore and he returned it into field goal range but a penalty negates a made Will Lutz kick and we head into the locker room still tied up at 10.
Atlanta receives the 2nd half kickoff, the first play from scrimmage is a pass to Austin Hooper that is intercepted by Chris Banjo. The Saints first play is a 21 yard screen pass to Mark Ingram that puts New Orleans in a goal to go situation. After a Mark Ingram run down to the 2 yard line, a Brees sprint out where he bobbles the snap ends with a Michael Thomas TD to help the Saints retake the lead 17-10. After Matt Ryan’s last 2 passes were intercepted, the Falcons used the run to get down inside the 10 but another Matt Ryan interception on an ill advised pass to the back of the end zone haults another Atlanta drive. After the turnover, the Saints weren’t able to muster any offense as they punt the ball back to the Falcons. A nice pass to Mohammad Sanu opens the drive then a run for no gain and a sack for a loss of 10 yards basically brought this drive to an end as they punt it back to Brees and his offense. A Ted Ginn end around started this Saints possession on a bad note and nothing good happened after that, a short completion then a Drew Brees sack sees the punt team coming back on the field. The Saints cant seem to stop Freeman or any Falcons runner for that matter but Atlanta just won’t stick with the run. As the 3rd quarter comes to an end Freeman runs onto the Saints side of the field as we head to the final period with the home team trailing 17-10.
Atlanta looks to have taken the game out of the Reigning MVPs hands as they have ran the ball on 9 of 10 plays on this drive. They are in a 3rd & goal looking to even this contest back up. A very accurate quick slant to Mohammad Sanu from Matt Ryan makes it 17-17 with 9:55 remaining in the game. After Ryan’s TD its now time to see if Drew Brees can respond. On the Saints next possession, he didnt as they could only get 1 first down then an Adrien Clayborn sack of Brees forces them to punt. The Falcons have found their rhythm after 3 and a half quarters as the saints defense looks gased but they are some how able to stop them and force a 52 yard Matt Bryant field goal attempt that he nailed to give Atlanta a 20-17 lead. To start the next drive Brees hits Thomas for 35 yards to take them into Atlanta territory. Rather quickly, Brees gets his team down to the 23 yard line on a 4th & 1 and a QB sneak by gives them a fresh set of downs with 1:47 on the clock. Going for the win, Drew Brees throws a high pass in the end zone to Josh Hill but LB Deion Jones leaped in front of Hill on a very athletic play and intercepted the ball. A couple run plays and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on coach Sean Payton basically calls an end to this one as the Falcons score 10 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to keep their playoff hopes alive in this huge divisional win.
STARS OF THE GAME
Drew Brees – 26/35 271 yards 2 TDs 1 INT
Michael Thomas – 10 rec 117 yards 1 TD
Mohammad Sanu – 6 Rec 83 yards 1 TD
Deion Jones – 13 Tackles 1 INT
Mark Ingram – 12 rushes 49 yards, 4 rec 43 yards
Devonta Freeman – 24 rushes 91 yards 1 TD
Julio Jones – 5 rec 98 yards
FALCONS 20 – SAINTS 17