By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Happy Thanksgiving! Last time the Saints and Falcons played was Nov. 10th in the Mercedes Benz Super Dome. A contest that Atlanta won in dominating fashion, 26-9. The Saints were not only look to avenge the loss to the Falcons. But to clinch the NFC South Division as well. They accomplished both, as New Orleans handed Atlanta their 9th loss of the season. But it wasn't easy. The Falcons would recover two onside kicks late in the 4th quarter, setting up an opportunity to pull out a victory. However, the Saints defense would slam the door shut. With the score, 26-18, Atlanta had the ball 4th and 8 at the Saints 44 yard line. Cam Jordan would record his 4th sack of the game to seal the victory and the Division.
The Saints started the game quickly. Atlanta received the opening kickoff and started their drive at the 25. On first down the Saints defense set the tone, sacking Matt Ryan on the play. Two plays later Taysom Hill blocked Atlanta's punt and the Saints recovered the ball at the 30 yard line. From there, the Saints quickly drove into the red zone. On 1st and goal from the three, Drew Brees hit Taysom Hill in the near flat. Hill followed blockers into the end zone for the score. Wil Lutz pushed his PAT through the up-rights and the Saints took an early 7-0 lead. Play slowed down, as both teams traded possessions. The quarter ended with Atlanta driving 73 yards on 8 plays, setting up a 4th and goal at the Saints 2 yard line.
Matt Ryan's pass fell incomplete in the end zone on 4th and goal from the 2, as the Falcons turned the ball over on downs to start the 2nd quarter. New Orleans was unable to drive out of the shadow of their goal line and punted. Three plays later, Matt Ryan hit TE Jaeden Graham for a 18 yard TD. Atlanta kicker, Younghoe Koo missed the PAT. 7-6, New Orleans, with 12:34 left in the 1st half. The Saints answered with a Wil Lutz 22 yard field goal as their 77 yard drive, stalled at the Atlanta 4 yard line, increasing their lead to 10-6. The Falcons' started their next drive, moving the ball 50 yards in 11 plays, eating 5:08 off the clock. However, Younghoe Koo missed a 42 yard field goal attempt. Drew Brees made the missed scoring opportunity sting as he quickly drove the Saints 68 yards in only 4 plays, as Taysom Hill took a direct snap and took it 30 yards for the score. The key play on the drive came on 1st down, when Drew Brees hit a wide open Jared Cook for a 29 yard gain. Saints led, 17-6 after the extra point by Lutz. Matt Ryan and the Falcons continued to move the ball well, as they responded, moving the ball 48 yards in nine plays, setting up Koo's 45 yard successful FG with only 3 seconds left. Atlanta Head Coach, Dan Quinn decided to roll the dice on a 4th and three at mid-field with 26 seconds left in the period. The gamble proved to be the right choice, as Matt Ryan scrambled nine yards to keep the drive alive,to set up the FG. Drew Brees finished the half 11/15, 147 yds passing, and 1 - TD. QB - Taysom Hill was the Saints leading rusher at the break with 30 yards on 1 carry for a score. Jared Cook lead the Saints with 85 yards on 3 grabs. The defense sacked Ryan three times. Both teams headed to the locker rooms with the Saints up, 17-9.
New Orleans received the kick off to start the 2nd half, but needed Thomas Morstead to punt. The Falcons would go three and out as Marcus Davenport got his 2nd sack of the game on third down. Next would be the Alvin Kamara drive, as he had a 6 yard off tackle pop on 1st down. A 7 yard blast on 2nd down. Then three plays later showed speed and strength on a nice 24 yard carry. The drive however would end at the Atlanta 29 yard line as the Falcons defense did a great job of pressuring Drew Brees into two straight incompletions. Wil Lutz added another FG to make the score, 20-9 with 5:54 left in the quarter. Atlanta then committed the first turnover of the game. Saints defensive linman, Shy Tuttle, intercepted a short pass attempted by Ryan. Drew Brees and the offense couldn't take advantage of the turnover, and went three and out, punting the ball back to the Falcons. The 3rd quarter would come to a close, with the Saints still on top, 20-9, with Atlanta driving the football.
Matt Ryan drove the Falcons to mid-field, but two plays later threw his 2nd interception of the 2nd half. Safety, CJ Gardner-Johnson picked off the pass and returned it to the Atlanta 29 yard line. After three plays only netted 5 yards, Lutz would hit from 42 yards out to push the score to 23-9, New Orleans. Three plays into Atlanta's next possession, Matt Ryan turned the ball over for the third time. On 3rd and five, Ryan scrambled for what looked like would be a 1st down. But before he could go down, Marcus Davenport hit him from behind causing the ball to come loose. Vonn Bell recovered the ball, setting up 1st and 10 for New Orleans at the Atlanta 39 yard line. The Saints could only manage another three points from Wil Lutz with 6:27 left to go in the ball game. Atlanta would score nine unanswered points late in the game. But the Saints defense stood tall to finish the contest.
The New Orleans defense again made big plays late in the game for the 2nd week in a row. They recording three turnovers and sacked Matt Ryan nine times. Drew Brees finished the game with 184 yards passing. Alvin Kamara lead the team in rushing with 61 yards on 11 carries. Jared Cook and Michael Thomas each had a solid game. But the true player of the game goes to Saints kicker Wil Lutz. He was perfect. Converting his PATs and going 4/4 on his field goal attempts.
New Orleans, now 10-2, will host the 49ers next Sunday at 12 noon, in a huge game that will go a long way in deciding the NFC Playoff seeding.