Saints pummel Falcons 45-16 to claim NFC South title

Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) rushes in the first quarter of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 26, 2011. AP

Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner (33) rushes in the first quarter of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 26, 2011. AP

NEW ORLEANS — The Falcons, with an opportunity to defend their NFC South title and improve their playoff status, were routed by the New Orleans Saints 45-16 before 70,086 fans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Falcons (9-6) entered the game with a playoff berth clinched and had an outside chance to capture the division crown with a victory over New Orleans and a win over Tampa Bay, coupled with a Saints’ loss to Carolina.

But the Saints (12-3) were near flawless for much of this evening. Saints quarterback Drew Brees entered the game needing 305 yards passing to break Dan Marino’s record for most passing yards in a single season. The mark of 5,084 yards set in 1984.

He tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Darren Sproles with 2:51 left in the fourth quarter for the mark.

The Falcons were not offended by the Saints running the up the score.

“It’s our job to go out there and stop them,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “It doesn’t matter if they are running the ball or throwing the ball. The job of our defense is to go out and stop them. Again, my hat is off to Drew Brees. It’s a record that’s been long-standing. He’s had a great season.”

The Falcons traded shots with the Saints early before things got out of hand. The defense couldn’t couldn’t keep up with sensational quarterback Drew Brees.

With Brees on target, the Saints went on touchdown drives of 84, 81, 80 and 86 yards on four of their first six possessions. The Saints defense got in on the scoring in the fourth quarter when safety Malcolm Jenkins scooped up a Julio Jones fumble and ran it in for a 30-yard touchdown.

If the playoffs started today, the Falcons would be the No. 6 seed and play the third-seeded Saints. Things could change if the Falcons beat Tampa Bay and Detroit manages to lose to Green Bay, which figures to rest its starters with the No. 1 seed wrapped up.

“We have a lot more expectation than just getting into the playoffs,” safety Thomas DeCoud said. We have a goal as a team to get into the palyoffs and make a deep run and not just be satisfied with making the playoffs.”

The Falcons rallied from a 23-10 halftime deficit against Carolina on Oct. 16, but these Saints, who clinched the NFC South with the victory, were a far superior team.

On the strength of the league’s most potent passing attack, the Saints held a 21-10 lead over the Falcons at halftime.

Brees’ first pass play of the game went for 38 yards. Brees, a candidate for the league’s MVP award, was 15 of 25 for 230 yards in the first half.

Much like their earlier game at the Georgia Dome, the Falcons marched down the field on their opening drive only to have the promising start stall. The Falcons moved the ball 64 yards on 11 plays, converting on two third downs, before Matt Bryant came on and made a 34-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 8:53 left in the first quarter.

The Saints entered the game averaging 32.6 points per game, second in the league. The Falcons were well aware they needed touchdowns, not field goals.

The Saints came right back and scored a touchdown on their first drive. Running back Pierre Thomas slammed into the end zone from 4 yards to cap an eight-play, 84-yard drive.

On their second possession, the Falcons put the ball to rookie wide receiver Julio Jones. On the eighth play of the drive, quarterback Matt Ryan hooked up with Jones for a 21-yard touchdown, putting the Falcons up 10-7. Jones also caught a 25-yarder in the drive.

Brees, however, marched the Saints down the field again, mixing in runs while converting on a third-and-12 pass from Atlanta’s 49. On the completion, the Falcons sent nickel back Dominique Franks on a blitz after Brees, who scrambled forward and threw a strike to Marques Colston while leaning awkwardly. Four plays later, Brees tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Colston to make it 14-10, giving the Saints the lead for good.

The Falcons’ next drive stalled, but the defense caught a major break. Brees drove the Saints down the field, only to have tight end Jimmy Graham drop an apparent touchdown pass and a turnover result, all at once. Safety William Moore alertly batted the ball up in the air and Franks intercepted the ball in the end zone.

The Falcons, going with their no-huddle attack, faced a third-and-10 from their 42-yard line that was converted for an apparent first down on a pass to wide receiver Harry Douglas. However, the play was nullified by a holding penalty on running back Jacquizz Rodgers. The drive stalled and the Falcons were forced to punt.

“We have to get a lot better in the red zone,” Ryan said. “We needed a lot more touchdowns than the field goals we got out there. For some reason, we just didn’t play our best football tonight.”

The Saints took the ball with 2:19 left in the first half and promptly marched another touchdown. Brees found Jimmy Graham in the back of the end zone on a 9-yard touchdown pass, exploiting single coverage from Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes and building the 21-10 lead.

New Orleans was 8-for-8 on third-down conversions in the first half.

The 29-point defeat was the worse loss in Smith’s four years as the head coach. The Falcons loss by 27 points to Green Bay in the playoffs last season and 34-7 to Philadelphia in 2009.

The 29-point margin was the largest in the series since the Saints beat the Falcons 38-0 back in 1987.

462 comments Add your comment

One and Done in the Playoffs

December 26th, 2011
11:54 pm

Pathetic and humiliating display. Mike Smith needs to clean house and if he won’t then Arthur Blank should. Ugly.

me

December 26th, 2011
11:54 pm

we’re not good

WHODAT

December 26th, 2011
11:54 pm

1 & DONE FOR THE FOULCONS

Falcaints

December 26th, 2011
11:55 pm

Why won’t Atlanta sports writers be honest. This team just quit.

Troy

December 26th, 2011
11:55 pm

Fall? How about SMASHED AND EMBARRASSED ON NATIONAL TV??? AGAIN!!!

TexasFalcon

December 26th, 2011
11:55 pm

What a showing! These record setter field goal Falcons are pitiful. As much as it hurts to say it I would have rather seen the Eagles make it as these Falcons will play one game and lose in the playoffs. Such brilliant play calling from Mike “Bull”arkey. I am sure Mike sh**y Smith love the play of his team. I don’t care they made the palyoffs two years in a row. This is an average team with an average coaching staff. Totally out coached and outplayed

Mr. Riley

December 26th, 2011
11:56 pm

This mess is some bull!! A. Blank needs to scrap the O.C. and D.C…screw the playoff birth, Im tired of seeing this team under achieve….we have to much talent for so much mediocrity….

Dominic Hughes

December 26th, 2011
11:56 pm

Enter your comments here

Mr. Mustard

December 26th, 2011
11:57 pm

Pathetic.

This confusion defensively on 3rd downs has been happening now for four years.

Weak, poor coaching.

NFL Referee's

December 26th, 2011
11:58 pm

Them Saints paid us some good money to help them win tonight down in the Bayou.

Dominic Hughes

December 26th, 2011
11:58 pm

Falcons are done. Will go out first week of playoffs. Coaching changes coming in offseason.

One and Done in the Playoffs

December 26th, 2011
11:58 pm

If we have talent then this coaching staff is worse than I give them credit for. Most of our defense is scout team material.

ATL66

December 26th, 2011
11:58 pm

this is what happens when boys play men.

One and Done in the Playoffs

December 27th, 2011
12:00 am

Fact is Mike Smith needs a heart transplant. He’s hoping to get a group deal since this entire team seems to lack heart.

Pete

December 27th, 2011
12:00 am

Gee, what a shocker, an Atlanta team folds in prime time again, for the 97th time.

Lizarddo

December 27th, 2011
12:00 am

Has this falcons defense ever stopped anybody on third down?

Why?

December 27th, 2011
12:00 am

The Falcons refuse to run the ball in the red zone. Until they do they will always be field goal kickers.

DJ Sniper

December 27th, 2011
12:02 am

Mustard, you are on point about the 3rd down conversion rate. 4 years and that s**t still hasn’t been fixed. BVG’s soft zone coverage, coupled with no pass rush at all, had Saints receivers running free and uncovered all night long. He needs his walking papers as soon as this season is done. Mularkey and his BS play calling needs to be right behind him. Why didn’t we just run the no huddle all night like we did in a previous game this season?

I usually avoid calling out the refs, but I can’t lie; there were some straight up bad calls in this game. I swear they made up that one call where it looked like there was holding in the end zone.

Patrick

December 27th, 2011
12:02 am

GA FAN

December 27th, 2011
12:02 am

Another disappoint. Fans desreve better. Make changes or ride by Tuner Field and see what’s in store during baseball season or after baseball season. Better yet………sit in philips arena and feel the fans pain.
No need to have players standing on the sideline. N.O. has 3 rb’s and the starter was hurt. If you want to preserve a rb………. get him some help!!!!!

Michael Wirth

December 27th, 2011
12:02 am

put an asterisk next to the so called “passing record” Do it in 14 games outside then it’s a passing record

BirminghamFalcon

December 27th, 2011
12:03 am

What a pathetic performance by Falcons. No pass rush at all. Abraham can get the sacks against weaker teams but cant deliver against good teams. Something needs overhauling- player or the coaching staff. This team is nowhere close to winning a game in playoffs forget about making it to super bowl. Very disappointing !!

FalconsHeroZero

December 27th, 2011
12:03 am

Falcons keep playing the wrong players int eh wrong spots on defense..Too much zone..

It’s a good pain…A good embarrassment…No real change comes from moral victories..

You have a Defensive regime, with a bad defense..

I really don’t know…What they can do, or who they can trade.. No 1st round pick…but..It’s The Saints time..

The Truth

December 27th, 2011
12:03 am

As bad as the score was this game turned on the “tackling on defence” call against Atlanta on the 3rd down pass in the first half.

Fin

December 27th, 2011
12:05 am

Hmmm, perhaps Mr. Blank can cash in some Home Depot stock and make out a big check to both Norv Turner for an offensive coordinator and Steve Spagnolo for a defensive coordinator. Those guys may not be great head coaches, but they are great Offensive and Defensive coordinators…much like Wade Phillips of the Texans.

Oh, and P.S….get some offensive line help. Matt may not be one of the league’s elite QBs, but it would be nice to have some solid offensive line play to see if he COULD become one of the league’s elite.

FalconsHeroZero

December 27th, 2011
12:05 am

They are slow..and not smart…in spots…RB, CB, LB, DT, and DE (They won’t give Sidbury more 3rd down snaps..He’s their fastest DE!)..

Jim Mora Jr.

December 27th, 2011
12:05 am

Sean Payton throwing the ball up by 22 with 3 mins to go= classless.
Game over- run the clock out and break the record next week. Mike Martz had his Waterloo, and it’s just a matter of time before you get yours.

dBall

December 27th, 2011
12:06 am

Falson, Hawks & Braves have something in common. They all just MAKE the playoffs. Falcons don’t waste our time going to the playoffs if you have to play the Packers or the Saints again. Your season is done by JUST making the playoffs.

M

December 27th, 2011
12:06 am

Brees would not have this record if the Falcons had BLITZED!!!!!!! SMITH SHOULD BE ASHAMED, MULARKEY FIRED, AND VAN GORDER @SS WHOOPED!!!

Joke

December 27th, 2011
12:06 am

Waste my time. Waste my money. This team is more predictable than a toaster. Wtf. Crappy 8 yard passes. A tertiary vs a secondary. And a Monday night hot mess. I want my 4 hours back.

Jim

December 27th, 2011
12:06 am

You wonder why the Atlanta sportscasters don’t get it?…they do, but they must sell newspapers/air time and get folks hyped up with false hope…it’s all about the money…this team obviously is not going anywhere, but hoot and holler if you will…objective people have been telling you all year long…and don’t even get me started on Roddy “7 T-shirt” White.

Fin

December 27th, 2011
12:06 am

@ Michael Wirth – Noope, terrible comment. You can’t compare the two eras man…just congratulate Brees on re-writting the record book.

Jimmy

December 27th, 2011
12:07 am

We don’t have enough talent.
That much is clear.
Our O Line is actually OVER ACHIEVING…but that’s still second string level.
Our D line played hard, but they just can’t get a consistent pass rush.
Our linebackers and DB’s play hard, but can’t seem to cover the pass.
Our offensive and defensive schemes have become too predictable…so our coaches need to change their philosophy.

We don’t have enough talent on both sides of the ball or among our coaches.

kevkat

December 27th, 2011
12:07 am

Wow..wonder what the score would have been if they had a full two weeks to prepare for the Saints

TRUTH HURTS

December 27th, 2011
12:07 am

This regime is good I will admit, they put the Falcons in a place they’ve never been with some model of consistency (4 back to back winning season, 2 playoff seasons in a row). However, at the end of the day when it comes down to it, this team has consistently failed to show up in big games. They’ve been outcoached, outschemed, outsmarted, and no adjustments are made. This team is much like the Atlanta Hawks, get in the playoffs but once in crunch time, you will be disappointed. The coaching staff needs to be changed, at least on the defensive end.

M

December 27th, 2011
12:07 am

IF WE CANT BEAT THE SAINTS, WE SHOULD NOT BE IN THE PLAYOFFS!!!!!!!!!!!

wins-by-a-link

December 27th, 2011
12:07 am

Way too many penalities, No pass rush, Can’t give Brees the time he had, He will and he did pick the Birds apart, Ryan had good numbers but not scoring TD’s in red zone is a killer, FG’s won’t get the job done, But give NO credit they have a great team and could win the Super Bowl, Brees is the best QB in NFL at the present time.

The Back Judge

December 27th, 2011
12:08 am

yeah I am taking my payoff money to Vegas babyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Pandora

December 27th, 2011
12:08 am

WHO DAT???!!! YEAH JUST LIKE I SAID…WE WERE GOING TO BEAT THE PANTS OFF THE FAILcons!!! 45-16 BABY!!!! NFC SOUTH CHAMPS…YA’LLL BETTER RECOGNIZE! WE CONFUSED THE HELL OUT OF YOUR SORRY BEHIND FALCANTS!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA! WHO DAT!!!??? :) ;) :) WHO DAT SAY THEY GONNA BEAT DEM SAINTS?? WHO DAT? WHO DAT!? GEAUX SAINTS! :)

Fin

December 27th, 2011
12:09 am

@ Jim – Pretty sure Roddy had a pretty decent game (11 rec for 127 yards)….Not sure what the T-shirt incident that happened what, 4 years ago, has to do with this game.

GA FAN

December 27th, 2011
12:10 am

@Pandora

Shove it in a box!!!!!

flatsdawg1

December 27th, 2011
12:11 am

The Saints will win the Super bowl. We won’t. Ever.

jlperry

December 27th, 2011
12:11 am

the falcons are not a well coach football team why they are whiching the saint and how they play on film they need to which they and how to get better this team is a joke like i all say the falcons have play good football since 1998 the superbowl year. The team in sad.

Ndamukong Suh

December 27th, 2011
12:11 am

Should have gone for Brees knees on that last drive. If successful, he and the Saints get what they deserve. If unsuccessful, the personal foul penalty would assure he did not get the record this week.

Jimmy

December 27th, 2011
12:11 am

Van Gorder looks like a washed up porn actor on the sidelines.
I won’t say he needed to blitz more.
Brees will burn you on the blitz.
Brees will burn you in zone.
He has time to throw and when you do manage to get close to him with the rush…he is elusive.
While I’ve grown disatisfied with Van Gorder…I don’t think this beat down is all on him.

The Back Judge

December 27th, 2011
12:12 am

I love it when I can influence the outcome in a football game for the under the table bucks I make doing this on the side. Mr. Blank should have offered more and we would have throwed it their way.

Goosedog

December 27th, 2011
12:12 am

Same ole falcons, blown out on monday night with almost a week and a half to prepare. They’re one and done. They better invest in some real impact players on the defense, They need a new D. Coord. and of course a new O. Coord.

The Difference in Elite vs. Good

December 27th, 2011
12:13 am

It’s a QB league – Brees is an elite, NFL record-setting QB with a ring – he has proven himself a winner. Ryan is a good QB – but when plays need to be made, he either can’t or does not make them.

Ryan will be in Brees’ shadow the rest of his career. Cam Newton is not too far behind either.

Tyrone Shulaces

December 27th, 2011
12:13 am

Congrats Saints fans yall have every reason to smear this in our faces. Your team came out and played with a passion, ours played like they were just glad to be in the playoffs. Some how I’m just not so excited about being in the playoffs. You know what this feels like…..I’ve been a fan since the late 70’s and I know very well the feeling of another year not making the playoffs. Now that we are making more playoff appearances, I still feel the same, I can’t get excited about it because I just don’t have the confidence they can win once they get there.

fan

December 27th, 2011
12:13 am

Blank is part of Home Depot that gives away American jobs to foreigners. Screw him. On to the game – FU BVG FU BVG FU BVG FU BVG FU BVG FU BVG FU BVG FU BVG FU BVG FU BVG FU BVG FU BVG FU BVG no pass rush. 1 blitz. just like last time. never learn. FU MM FU MM FU MM FU MM FU MM nothing but short passes or a run up the middle. again. and again.