this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; The New Orleans Saints weren't perfect Monday night, as they outlasted the division-rival Atlanta Falcons for a sometimes sloppy, sometimes spectacular 35-27 victory. But their performance was perfectly acceptable as they matched the best start in franchise history at 7-0. ...
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|11-03-2009, 11:24 AM||#1|
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The New Orleans Saints weren't perfect Monday night, as they outlasted the division-rival Atlanta Falcons for a sometimes sloppy, sometimes spectacular 35-27 victory.
But their performance was perfectly acceptable as they matched the best start in franchise history at 7-0.
"This is a huge win," quarterback Drew Brees said. "We knew this coming in obviously, you win and really it's worth two (in the division standings). It wasn't the prettiest win at times. But we did what we needed to do when we needed to do it. That says a lot."
New Orleans has now opened a three-game lead in the NFC South, with Atlanta (4-3) the closest contender. Although it's clearly way too early to make postseason promises, a graphic flashed on the screen during ESPN's "Monday Night Football" telecast that pointed out that the Saints have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL in the next nine weeks.
"We haven't hit the halfway point of the season yet," Saints Coach Sean Payton said when the undefeated talk was mentioned in his postgame press conference. "Each week we get another challenge. So we're just focused on trying to get better. And each time we play another game, it seems to have that much more importance."
Up next for the Saints is another division matchup against the Carolina Panthers (3-4), who are coming off an impressive victory over Arizona.
But with all due respect to Payton, Monday night's win was bigger than the typical weekly matchup.
Atlanta, which beat out the Saints for a playoff spot last season, loomed as New Orleans' strongest contender in the South this season, and a Falcons victory Monday night would have closed the gap to one game in the division race.
The Falcons didn't relent. They forced four turnovers and piled up 442 yards of offense -- actually outgaining the Saints by 5 yards.
Once again, however, the Saints' big-play defense kept slamming the door shut each time it was cracked open, providing just as many heroics as the Saints' high-powered offense.
Cornerback Jabari Greer sliced through the Atlanta offense for a 48-yard interception return for a touchdown shortly before halftime. Cornerback Tracy Porter added a touchdown-saving pick early in the fourth quarter, bringing in a ball tipped by linebacker Jonathan Vilma. And safety Darren Sharper reeled in the Falcons' final desperate Hail Mary attempt in the closing seconds after Atlanta made things interesting by recovering an onside kick after a field goal.
"(Porter's interception) was huge," Sharper said. "That had to be the play of the game. To get that interception and not let them get any points was huge. That's what we've been doing all year."
The Saints' defense has 21 takeaways this season, and it has scored six touchdowns. Five interceptions have been returned for scores, matching the franchise record set in 1998.
The Saints' offense was plenty explosive, too, Monday night, with Brees throwing for 308 yards and two touchdowns, Pierre Thomas running for 91 yards and scoring twice, and offensive weapons such as Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem making a series of spectacular catches.
But the performance was bittersweet for a unit that turned the ball over four times -- an interception and three fumbles, one of which was returned for an Atlanta touchdown in the first quarter.
"We did a lot of things well, yet we did a lot of things that made it close in the end," Payton said. "We've got some ball security issues. But third down was a good down for us on both sides of the ball. I thought we operated well in the red zone. And I thought we came up big on defense after (those turnovers).
"I'm excited to win, though. I'm excited to win this game and get to 7-0. It was an important win against a divisional opponent."
"I'll be honest, I don't think we played that great today," Brees said when asked if he's concerned about peaking too early. "I think our best is yet to come."
The game was not comfortable for the Saints, starting with Atlanta's opening touchdown drive. The Falcons marched steadily down field before tailback Michael Turner broke free for a 13-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead.
The Saints' offense responded with a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended with Thomas' 22-yard touchdown run.
But the next time the Saints had the ball, Brees dropped back to pass near his own goal line, and blitzing safety Thomas DeCoud flew in untouched and knocked the ball loose. Defensive end Kroy Biermann recovered the fumble and returned the ball for a 4-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
The Saints, however, scored the next 21 points, thanks to Brees' 18-yard touchdown pass to Colston, Reggie Bush's 1-yard touchdown run and Greer's interception return, which showed off the speed that made him a track champion in his college days at Tennessee.
The Saints' offense stalled after halftime, once again cracking that door open.
Atlanta closed the gap to 28-21 on a 68-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to receiver Roddy White early in the third quarter. White appeared to get away with a push-off on Greer's back before reeling in the pass.
In the fourth quarter, a Jason Elam field goal brought the Falcons to 28-24.
Then the Saints gave the ball right back to Atlanta when Thomas fumbled on his own 34-yard line.
But three plays later, Ryan's pass intended for tight end Tony Gonzalez in the end zone was tipped by Vilma and intercepted by Porter just in front of the goal line.
"They had the momentum and were potentially going in for the go-ahead score," Porter said. "It changed the momentum and put it in our favor. That's what we pride ourselves on, making plays and getting stops."
That momentum-changer finally jump-started the Saints' offense, setting up an 11-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that ended with Brees' 1-yard pass to Thomas for a 35-24 lead.
"I told myself I have to bounce back, and that's what we did as a team, we bounced back," said Thomas, who blamed himself for fumbling the ball when safety Erik Coleman leaned into him and got his helmet right on the point of the ball.
After Thomas' redeeming touchdown, Atlanta marched down for a field goal with 55 seconds remaining and recovered an onside kick to keep its hopes alive.
But after Ryan completed a 14-yard pass to receiver Michael Jenkins, his Hail Mary throw deep down the field landed in Sharper's opportunistic arms -- fittingly enough -- for his seventh interception of the season.
"Obviously the defense is playing great," Brees said. "They're doing a great job of taking the ball away, giving us opportunities on offense. Our scoring defense has been unbelievable. They're scoring plenty of touchdowns on their own.
"There's a bunch of ways to win in this league, and we've encountered a few of those ways already. And I'm sure there will be more to come."
Saints equal best start in team history with win over Falcons | New Orleans Saints Central - - NOLA.com
|11-03-2009, 04:54 PM||#2|
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Re: Saints equal best start in team history with win over Falcons
The ball security issues do worry me a little bit. The fumbles could have been critical, but our defense stepped up.