The Atlanta Falcons looked good in their 23-13 drubbing of the Saints in Atlanta this past Thursday night. However, one would be pretty hard-pressed to find a game where Drew Brees looked this ordinary. Obviously him throwing five picks in a game is something that he has never done before, and he had his consecutive games with a touchdown pass streak snapped at 54. Let’s give credit where credit is due: to the Atlanta defense; they won their team this game. For a majority of the night the Falcons’ offense looked out of sync. The were failing to make first downs (at one point they went three and out on five straight drives). Normally against the Saints, that spells death for a team. The Falcons were able to stop the Saints from scoring more than one touchdown and they forced those five turnovers. For the first time this season, the Atlanta defense won them the game. Good teams will always find a way to win, and that is why the Falcons are the best team in the NFC.
The New Orleans offensive line has become a liability. The main reason why Brees looked so bad last night was because there was pressure in his face on a majority of his drop-backs. The Falcons must have popped in the game film and took notes from last week when San Francisco dominated the Saints upfront with a solid pass rush. The cat is out of the bag now; this Saints offense will not work if Brees is not protected. In the past, the only way a team could ensure that they got consistent pressure on the New Orleans quarterback was to blitz him. That meant sending extra guys from the secondary, which made the coverage a little lax. Brees would then pick the blitzing team apart. Nowadays a team can know that if they send extra men on the rush, the Saints’ offensive line will struggle picking them up and Drew will suffer because of it.
Not only did the Falcons pressure the quarterback well, but they also played some of the best coverage they have played all year long. This game resembled their Week 2 defeat of the Denver Broncos; they forced some errant passes from an elite QB and their defenders stayed locked to the receivers. Asante Samuel went down in this game right after Brees hooked up with Josh Morgan for a 38-yard strike. Chris Owens came in to replace Samuel and did one heck of a job. As a matter of a fact, the Falcons were not really beat deep again for the whole game.
This game was a combination of the Atlanta defense playing its heart out and the Saints offense struggling like they haven’t in a long time. The Saints should have had at least one more touchdown. Lance Moore dropped one in the end zone and the Darren Sproles touchdown was called back because Jimmy Graham interfered with the defender. This loss could very well be the end of the Saints for 2012. They will have to put together one incredible run, starting next week in East Rutherford against the Giants. For the Falcons, they clinch a playoff berth if the Bears beat the Seahawks on Sunday, and will clinch the division if the Broncos go over the Buccaneers. Both of these results are favored to happen, so more likely than not the Atlanta Falcons will find themselves as the first team in the playoffs by the end of Week 13.