Just as many people expected, the most recent episode in the Saints/Falcons series was a battle right down to the very last play. With 7:13 remaining in the 4th quarter, John Kasay converted a 44 yard field goal to put New Orleans up by 2 scores with a 23-13 lead, giving them what seemed to be a comfortable two score lead. However, Ryan brought Atlanta back after a touchdown strike to Tony Gonzalez 3 minutes later, and then set up kicker Matt Bryant with the game-tying field goal as time expired. The Falcons would receive the ball first in overtime (as the Saints fell to 0 for 11 in coin tosses this season, a particularly unbelievable stat), but both teams would end up punting before the Falcons faced a critical 4th and inches from its own 29 1/2 yard line. Falcons head coach Mike Smith initially sent his punt team out, but after calling a timeout, he decided to put his offense back out on the field and go for it. The Saints’ run defense stepped up in a huge spot, stuffing Michael Turner and therefore getting the ball in immediate field goal range. Four plays later, Kasay delivered the game-winning 26 yard field goal, moving the Saints to 7-3 and into a comfortable 1 1/2 game lead in the NFC South entering their bye week. Here are my other thoughts from New Orleans’ crucial road victory in Atlanta.
Because I’m currently overwhelmed and blown away by the what is currently going on with the NBA season getting blown up, this recap will be pretty brief. In a nutshell, the Saints were able to come out of this game victorious for two reasons – Drew Brees and red zone defense. The Saints’ running game was once again very disappointing, finishing with just 41 yards on 16 carries. Luckily, it didn’t matter, as Brees completed 30 out of 43 passes for 322 yards, including 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. The Saints’ defense overall was pretty sub-par throughout the entire game, giving up a whopping 481 yards of total offense. When it mattered most, however, the D tightened up, forcing the Falcons to settle for field goals in three of their five red zone trips, as well as another missed field goal just outside the 20 yard line. Add those red zone stands to the big 4th and 1 stop in overtime, and that’s some clutch defense from the Saints all game long, even if the overall numbers were less than impressive. The defense still needs to improve considerably, but at least for one game, the unit stepped up in big situations; when Drew Brees is your QB, sometimes that’s all you need.