this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Posted by Mike Triplett, Times-Picayune October 22, 2007 Last week, the Saints came back from the dead. Now, they're back in the hunt. The Saints weren't perfect in Sunday's 22-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at the Superdome, but they ...
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Posted by Mike Triplett, Times-Picayune
October 22, 2007
Last week, the Saints came back from the dead.
Now, they're back in the hunt.
The Saints weren't perfect in Sunday's 22-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at the Superdome, but they didn't have to be. They just had to be a little better than the other guys.
That's how it's going to be the rest of this season in a mediocre NFC South race. With Carolina (4-2) on a bye this week and Tampa Bay (4-3) losing to Detroit, the Saints (2-4) were the only team in the division to post a victory.
"Things weren't pretty all the time," Saints Coach Sean Payton said after his team's second consecutive victory. "But that's an important win for us right now."
The Saints made fewer mistakes than Atlanta (1-6), especially in the second half. They applied more pressure to the opposing quarterbacks -- Byron Leftwich and, when Leftwich went out with an injury, Joey Harrington.
And they made more big plays in big spots -- including a 48-yard punt return by Lance Moore in the first quarter, a 37-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Devery Henderson in the first, a 24-yard touchdown run by Pierre Thomas in the third, and a 4-yard go-ahead touchdown pass from Brees to Reggie Bush with 5:04 remaining.
"Today, for us, was just about getting a win. However we got it," said Bush, who forced his way into the end zone after cornerback Lewis Sanders appeared to wrap him up on the 1-yard line at the end of a critical third-down play.
Bush also made a nifty run for a two-point conversion on the next play, eluding two tacklers to give the Saints a six-point cushion.
The Saints' defense held tight after that, finishing off its third consecutive impressive performance.
"Obviously, not every game is going to be 28 points in the first half," Bush said, referring to last week's swift knockout against the Seattle Seahawks. "You're going to have games like these, but the most important thing is that we won."
The truth is, the Saints have had a couple of games like this in 2007 -- against Tennessee in Week 3 and against Carolina in Week 5 -- but they were unable to play well enough in the fourth quarter to win those games.
On Sunday, there was a noticeable change in the Saints' body language, in their efficiency, in their poise and confidence.
After Atlanta took a 16-14 lead on a 21-yard field goal by Morten Andersen with 10:19 remaining, the Saints responded with an 11-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that included three third-down conversions, including Bush's touchdown.
The biggest play on that drive came early, when Brees hit Marques Colston with a slant pass on third-and-5, which Colston turned into a 33-yard gain.
"Obviously, getting that first win last week, guys were feeling more confident. That's part of it," said Brees, who completed 22 of 34 passes for 219 yards with two touchdowns and one interception just before halftime. "But I guess it just seemed like this was a game that we were going to win. We believed that the whole time. I don't think there was ever a time where we felt like this thing was going the other direction."
"I think any time you're coming off a win -- or even moreso, any time that you start doing things the way that you know you can do them -- it helps. And I think that kind of showed today," added left guard Jamar Nesbit, who helped keep Brees from being sacked for the third consecutive game.
Everyone from Payton to Brees to Bush said the Saints' offense probably left some points on the board Sunday. They converted just four of 12 third-down attempts, with Brees struggling to get in sync with his receivers at times.
But Brees said the key to those three touchdown drives was getting "that first first down," and developing a nice tempo from there.
The defense kept the Saints in the game.
It gave up a handful of big plays, but usually responded well, forcing Atlanta to settle for three field goals with just one touchdown.
The Saints didn't blitz nearly as often as they did a week ago at Seattle, but they got a decent amount of pressure on Leftwich and Harrington, finishing with three sacks. Leftwich was knocked out of the game with an ankle sprain after being hit by Saints defensive end Will Smith in the second quarter.
The Saints didn't force any turnovers, but the Falcons did lose yardage because of fumbles three times, and each time they were forced to punt.
"We all had our moments during the game, and we finished. We didn't beat ourselves," said Smith, who was credited with three quarterback hurries. "We won in the fourth quarter, which we've talked about doing all year."
Thomas scored the first offensive touchdown of his career -- a nifty run that included a great block by backup center Jonathan Goodwin. And Henderson continued his roller-coaster season with one of its high points, making a nice catch on the 37-yard bomb from Brees.
Bush was decent as the featured back, gaining 73 yards of total offense, with two of his longer runs being called back by holding penalties.
"There were a lot of good efforts. I think we've been playing better football," Payton said. "But I think it's a work in progress. The thing about this league is that you are what your record says you are. And right now, we're still digging."
The Saints will try and creep closer to .500 next week with a trip to San Francisco. The 49ers (2-4) are heading in the opposite direction of the Saints right now. After winning their first two games, they've lost four in a row.
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