By Matthew Asher
Writers should officially trademark the name “The Flat-Line Falcons” when describing this team from now on.
With the New Orleans Saints’ 31-27 defeat of the Atlanta Falcons in Week 10, the Saints ended an Atlanta franchise record. When the two met in Week 13 with an Atlanta win, the Falcons’ 23-13 win upped the ante by ending an NFL record.
It may not have been the prettiest offensive game ever for the Falcons, but it was sufficient when it was needed. WIth Matt Ryan being unable to even throw for 200 passing yards, the running attack made up for it with nearly 150 yards.
Defensively, Atlanta did give up more than 400 yards of offense, but they held the Saints to just 13 points, a great job by any coach. They also contributed with five turnovers going plus-four for the game.
Not only does this win help ease the pain of Atlanta’s only loss this season, but if the Denver Broncos defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday, Atlanta will claim the NFC South Division with an entire month of the regular season still remaining.
Atlanta’s Defense gets an A. When your defense gives Drew Brees a new career-high in interceptions and stops the NFL record of consecutive games with a touchdown pass, you’ve done your job.
That’s right. For the first time in 55 games Drew Brees was unable to throw at least one touchdown pass. The five interceptions thrown by Brees are a new career high. Matt Ryan, who set that same record two weeks ago against Arizona, did not throw an interception but did throw a touchdown.
Atlanta’s opening drive offense gets an A. While the Falcons have had success scoring on opening drives, this one was special. Atlanta marched down the field 80 yards. The six plays it took them to score was less than four minutes. Ryan attempted and completed one pass while the Falcons ground game was on a roll. Three of the five runs went for 14 yards or more and made up 71 yards. Atlanta didn’t need to convert a third-down attempt that drive. Michael Turner’s three-yard touchdown run was the third one he’s had in as many games.
While Turner has been highly criticized as of late, this was a great game for him. Turner gained 43 of his 83 rushing yards on the opening drive. He showed those bursts of speed he was known for several times in the game with three of his 12 rushing attempts going for more than 10 yards.
Kicker Matt Bryant gets an A. After going just 1-3 last week against Tampa Bay, Bryant definitely got back some of his confidence. He was 3-3 making kicks off 45, 29 and 55 yards respectively, which were the final nine points of the game Atlanta scored.
Atlanta’s offense after the opening drive gets a C-. The reason Atlanta took a 17 point lead was primarily because of the good defense. When the defense picked off Brees the first time in the endzone, the Falcons couldn’t move the ball and went three-and-out. This last statistic then brings us to…
Atlanta’s third-down offense gets a D. As mentioned in the “Good” section, the Falcons didn’t need to convert on third down on the opening drive––that was also a problem. They didn’t get their first third-down conversion until about six minutes were left in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta may have jumped to a 17-0 lead, but the Falcons offense had to stand on the sideline viewing the Saints score 13 straight points of their own. As it turned out the Falcons didn’t need to convert third-downs to win the game, but by converting just 9 percent of their attempts this game, it could have made this a much easier win.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.