Grading the Saints (Falcons)
GRADING THE SAINTS
Monday, October 17, 2005
By Brian Allee-Walsh and Mike Triplett, Times-Picayune
By far this was the most potent the Saints' offense has been all season -- even without Deuce McAllister, Joe Horn and offensive linemen Jermane Mayberry and Jammal Brown for most of the game. The offensive line opened gaping holes for Antowain Smith and Aaron Stecker, and Aaron Brooks led some outstanding second-half scoring drives. But the story of this game was big mistakes, and the offense made two of them. Smith fumbled when the Saints were nearing field-goal range in the second quarter, and the Falcons returned the ball 66 yards for a touchdown. Then Brooks threw an interception in the fourth quarter that set up another Atlanta touchdown. Brooks' pass was thrown behind Devery Henderson, and the ball bounced off an Atlanta defender into the hands of linebacker Keith Brooking. Another huge turning point came on offense, when receiver Az-Zahir Hakim was called for offensive pass interference in the second quarter, nullifying a touchdown catch. The call was questionable, but it was determined that he pushed off to create space.
Overall, the defense limited the Falcons to 266 yards and quarterback Michael Vick to 50 yards rushing and 112 yards passing. After three quarters, he had an 18.8 passer rating. Not exactly Pro Bowl statistics. Running back Warrick Dunn reached the 100-yard mark on 22 carries, but the yards came grudgingly. Tight end Alge Crumpler was a non-factor until the Falcons' final possession, when he caught three passes for 31 yards. Although sacked once, Vick took numerous shots in the pocket. A 17-point fourth quarter by the Falcons spoiled what otherwise was a solid defensive performance.
SPECIAL TEAMS F
Not a good day for Al Everest's bunch. The Falcons blocked John Carney's 47-yard field-goal attempt and Demorrio Williams returned the ball 59 yards for a touchdown to end the first half. Then Saints defensive tackle Tony Bryant was called for holding, giving the Falcons a second shot at a winning field goal. On the mulligan, kicker Todd Peterson was good from 36 yards. The Saints' longest return was a routine 23 yards by Az-Zahir Hakim.
Uninspired last week against Green Bay, the Saints played with more conviction Sunday. Yes, they continue to make costly mistakes that result in points for the opposition. But they ran the ball effectively and harassed quarterback Michael Vick from beginning to end. Vick inflicted damage, but he paid dearly. Falcons coach Jim Mora was respectful afterward. "My hat goes off to Haz and his staff and his players. He's got coaches sleeping in the stadium, equipment men sleeping in the equipment room. Has hasn't been back to New Orleans since the hurricane (Katrina), and to be able to put a team on the field that competes the way it competes, to me it just shows so much about Jim, his staff and his players. It's inspiring. It's impressive. When I was walking off the field with the guy, I just wanted to give him a big hug. I see the pain on his face. He's lost 15 pounds, but he's tougher than hell."
From Pete Prisco:
Atlanta Falcons 34, New Orleans Saints 31
Falcons: It was far from pretty, but the Falcons will take it. Michael Vick didn't do much, but he did enough in the end. Thank goodness for Saints miscues.
Saints: They keep turning the ball over and it's costing them. They're still playing hard, but it's not enough. The officials got them good on the field goal miss with that holding penalty.
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