Atlanta Falcons keep division hopes alive, eliminate New Orleans Saints with impressive pass rush


The Atlanta Falcons had to take down the New Orleans Saints if they wanted to control their playoff hopes, and with a pass rush appearing from seemingly nowhere, they did just that beating their rivals 30-14.

The final score doesn’t do the game much justice, as Drew Brees and the Saints were one score away from taking the lead with minutes to go in the fourth quarter. But, the defense came through multiple times and helped seal the deal for this one–something that has rarely happened in this… interesting… season.

The Saints started this one off about as well as they could have hoped. Jalen Saunders grabbed the opening kickoff and took the ball 99 yards to the Falcons one-yard line before Mark Ingram punched the ball in on the first and only play of the drive to give New Orleans an immediate 7-o lead.

But the mood of the game quickly shifted.

The Atlanta defense held the Saints in check for the remainder of the half and after a couple of field goals from Matt Bryant, the Falcons finally found the end zone for themselves with three seconds remaining in the half.

Matt Ryan orchestrated a beautiful 89-yard drive down the field that milked 5:33 off of the clock and finished with a nice little shovel pass to Eric Weems on the goal line for the first Falcons touchdown of the day, and a 13-7 lead heading into the half.

During the third quarter, Devonta Freeman gave the team a 20-7 lead after breaking a 31-yard run to find the end zone. Meanwhile, the defense continued to hold Brees in check.

As the fourth quarter began, Brees found Jimmy Graham over the middle and he reached the goal line, but Kemal Ishmael came up huge and forced and recovered a fumble to keep the Saints from cutting into the lead. The play was certainly questionable, but without any obvious video evidence to suggest a touchdown, the play stood after review and the Falcons took over once again.

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The offense started to struggle a bit at this point, and several drives later, Graham did find the end zone on a perfect pass from Brees for a four-yard touchdown and a 20-14 game. After being in complete control for almost the entire game, the Saints were one score away from taking a lead and getting the win.

With 5:48 to play, Ryan led the Falcons to just one first down before they had to punt the ball–giving Brees 2:40 to work down the field with the 20-14 lead. However on just the second play of the drive, Brees looked for Nick Toon on the right sideline. Unfortunately for him Robert McClain was watching as well, and jump the route for an easy interception and, essentially, the game.

Matt Bryant kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive to make it a two score game, and with the Saints desperately trying to get into the end zone on their final drive, Osi Umenyiora got into the pocket and forced a fumble.

Oh, and he picked it up and ran it back 86 yards for a touchdown while waving goodbye to all of the Saints players on the field and ending their playoff hopes and dreams. So that’s fitting.

The defense sacked Brees five times for 47 yards in this one and the quarterback threw for 313 yards with just one touchdown and two interceptions, so it really was nice to see the game sealed with Umenyiora getting to Brees one final time.

With this win, the Falcons are still in control of their destiny in the NFC South. With the Carolina Panthers beating the Cleveland Browns today, next week’s matchup will be for the division and the playoffs. And with the stakes being so high, it will likely be on the NFL’s main stage:

That should be fun.