By Matthew Asher
All rivalries in football truly start when both teams are playing for something worthwhile. The Packers and Bears have been feuding since 1921, the Giants and Jets fight for bragging rights in New York/New Jersey and even though 49ers and Cowboys have only played in 33 games, seven of them were in the postseason. While the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints may not have the history of some of the other rivalries, in recent years these games have started to mean much more than simply one more win against an opponent.
When the Saints travel to the Georgia Dome for their Week 1 game against the Atlanta Falcons, it will be the 90th time these two teams have played each other in the regular season. Atlanta currently holds a slim 47-43 lead (Atlanta won the only postseason game, back in 1991). For the majority of these games, both teams weren’t very good. But ever since the NFC South was formed back in 2002, the games have begun to take on much more importance.
New Orleans has dominated the past decade going 14-6 in the last 20 meetings. A lot of this has to do with the acquisition of current Saints quarterback Drew Brees back in 2006. Since Brees took over as the New Orleans signal-caller, the Saints are 13-3 and are currently riding a two-game winning streak in the series and were responsible last season for ensuring the Falcons would have a losing record for the first time in the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan era.
But not all has gone well for the Saints during these games. Back in 2012 the Falcons were able to shut down Brees and company, forcing five interceptions en route to a 23-13 victory. In addition to the win, Atlanta stopped Brees’ NFL-record of consecutive games throwing at least one touchdown at 54.
As stated above, New Orleans won both meeting last season, but both were very close games. New Orleans won the Week 1 contest 23-17 at the SuperDome as the Saints were able to prevent Atlanta from scoring what would have been at least a game-tying (possibly winning if they made the extra point) touchdown. Matt Ryan drove the Falcons 77 yards down to the three-yard line but Roman Harper intercepted a Tony Gonzalez intended pass in the end zone to give the Saints their first of five straight wins to start out the season.
When the Saints and Falcons met again in Week 12, Atlanta had already been crippled by injuries to their star players but the game was close. In the end, it was Atlanta’s inability to score in the second half that led to a 17-13 loss to the Saints. The game was notable for Jimmy Graham’s touchdown celebration in which the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham dunked the ball over the goal post, bending the post in the process. The game had to be postponed for about 30 minutes so the maintenance crew could fix the bent post.
But of course, that’s in the past. Both teams appear to be healthy and if the last few meetings are any indication of what’s to come, fans will be in for a great game. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm ET.
For more Falcons news and updates, visit Falcons Central.
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.