Falcons just turned into team we expected last season

The Falcons' sideline erupts after Matt Bryant's 46-yard field goal gave them an overtime win over New Orleans.

The Falcons' sideline erupts after Matt Bryant's 46-yard field goal clinches a win over New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS –  The calendar screams that it’s too early for grand proclamations. Week three games in the NFL don’t decide division titles or playoff berths. They merely give us some sense of direction.

But we just learned something about the Falcons.

They won a game against the defending Super Bowl champions. They won a game on the road and in the Superdome, where they hadn’t won since 2002. They had a 19-play touchdown drive that tested their resilience. They had a field goal drive in overtime when the offensive line assumed control of the game.

More? They had a kicker, Matt Bryant, who had to try three times for a winning field goal because his first two attempts were negated by penalties. They had a defensive end, John Abraham, who came back into the game late despite being relatively blinded in one eye.

Is that a strong enough indication of direction?

The Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints in overtime Sunday, 27-24. Had they lost, they still would have been publicly embraced for their performance. Instead, they won, and their stature grew.

“No moral victories. No more of those for us. We’re done with that,” Roddy White said.

“We could have easily flinched or been talking about what-ifs,” linebacker Mike Peterson said.

There were enough of those last season. The Falcons fell short too many times in a season that had high expectations. They lost two close games to the Saints, and in overtime to New York, and were body slammed in Dallas.

On Sunday, we saw the team we expected last year. It felt more like 2008. So it wasn’t surprising when owner Arthur Blank was asked if he remembered the last Falcons’ victory of such significance and he responded: “When we beat the Vikings two years ago to go to the playoffs.”

The Falcons were only average in their opening loss at Pittsburgh. They were far better last week, blowing out Arizona. But New Orleans was a bigger test on a bigger stage. They responded. They looked committed.

Start with Abraham. With the Falcons leading 24-21 and the Saints driving in the final three minutes, the defensive end was poked in the right eye, suffering a scratched pupil. He suffered from double-vision. But he came out for only a few plays.

“They were like, ‘Are you done?’” Abraham said. “But you can’t come out of a game like this. I had one good eye. All I had to do was get around the end.”

This is how you tell something about a football team. The Falcons trailed 7-0 after only three minutes. But the defense intercepted Drew Brees twice in the first half, and the second one turned into that 19-play touchdown drive (including two fourth-down conversions) that tied the game at 14-14.

Trailing again at 21-17, Matt Ryan hit White for a 22-yard score. Then the Saints tied it. They looked like they would win it, only to have kicker Garrett Hartley miss a 29-yard field goal try.

The Falcons had one more chance to will themselves to a victory, and they did. They ran the ball eight straight plays from their own 41 with Michael Turner and Jason Snelling, setting up Bryant for a 41-yard attempt.

His first attempt was blocked. But the Saints had just called timeout. His second attempt was good. But the Falcons were flagged for false start. His third attempt was perfect.

The Falcons celebrated but tried to keep the party in check. It was just one win in the third week of a long season. As Peterson said, “There’s no reason to start printing T-shirts and organizing a parade.”

But if this season turns into something special, remember when they started building the floats.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

809 comments Add your comment

roderic

September 26th, 2010
7:27 pm

LJ

September 26th, 2010
7:28 pm

Weeee Daaaatttt!!! Hmmmm…Have we all SeenThisb4?

Savannah Fan

September 26th, 2010
7:28 pm

Second!!!-Great win

roderic

September 26th, 2010
7:29 pm

YAYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MY 1ST 1ST LOL GREAT GAME ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL ANOTHER CLASSIC NFC BATTLE GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kane337

September 26th, 2010
7:33 pm

Dirty Birds “CAN” fly with a broken wing. Take that DirecTV. WE DAT!

GT92-UGA98

September 26th, 2010
7:33 pm

I’m just happy Jeff got to see one good football game this weekend.

Danny

September 26th, 2010
7:34 pm

This team may go 13-3. I don’t see very many games left where they can’t win or won’t be favored.

DWAIN13

September 26th, 2010
7:35 pm

The Falcons are well coached and are very mature in their attitudes towards finishing the game. They look like a team (New England comes to mind) that has a very business-like attitude and that knows that this game was a small piece of the puzzle in a long and enduring season. Again Jeff, another fine article from someone who knows how to preach it!

Chop Buster

September 26th, 2010
7:35 pm

The offense is finally coming around and the defense still needs improvement. We have to stop the big play ability of teams…especially the Saints. We did not do that today. Good win and let’s stay discipline in our defensive assignments. Who Dat? Dem Falcons beat dem Saints!!!

Common Sense

September 26th, 2010
7:37 pm

How badly is Witherspoon hurt?

bigdave

September 26th, 2010
7:37 pm

SeanWSpoon56: I’m doing fine by the way tweeps! Thanks for all ur prayers! I coulda walked off… The cart is protocol

15 minutes ago via Echofon

bigdave

September 26th, 2010
7:37 pm

id say our speedy rookie backer is aight..

Kane337

September 26th, 2010
7:37 pm

Weatherspoon had cramps. He’s good.

Jerry

September 26th, 2010
7:38 pm

Good win but very lucky they missed the fg. Basically we are even with the saints imo. Which is saying a lot since they just won the SB.

Falcon Carl

September 26th, 2010
7:38 pm

Great Character! And now we know that Pittsburgh is a great team too (with or without Ben R).

bcinbuford

September 26th, 2010
7:38 pm

I have to admit one thing about the game today. The refs seemed to stay out of the way!

jojatek

September 26th, 2010
7:39 pm

Absolutely HUGE win today. A big day for Turner, of course, but can’t help but think that Snelling might have helped the Birds put it away sooner. Great to see them finally go to Gonzalez more on 3rd down as well. If Ryan had another deep threat, this team just might be unstoppable…

Next victim: SF…

Kane337

September 26th, 2010
7:39 pm

Where O Where is SeenthisB4? He is always first on these blogs. Guess he is still crying.

Jan

September 26th, 2010
7:39 pm

What a game! Never give up on the Birds; I haven’t and won’t. Go Falcons!

bcinbuford

September 26th, 2010
7:40 pm

Three teams at 2-1 in the NFC South. We now know which one is going up!

Mitch (the one in Rome)

September 26th, 2010
7:41 pm

What a game. One of the most entertaining games I’ve seen. It’s fun to be a Falcon fan today.

Greg

September 26th, 2010
7:42 pm

With the breaks we got, we should have won by 20. Mularkey’s unbelievably predictable (and stupid) play-calling almost cost us the whole enchilada. Sam Baker and Roddy still making stupid, lapse-of-concentration mistakes, too.

Tom Pridemore was tuff..

September 26th, 2010
7:42 pm

hopefully JS posted this blog sitting in 1st class somewhere over Mississippi……..(drinking an imported beer) GO Falcons!!!

Greg

September 26th, 2010
7:43 pm

Espn refuses to talk about this game because they are in bed with the saints

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sports Owners Hub, Sean Womble, JenniferfromLaJolla, kartel goss, Jeff Schultz and others. Jeff Schultz said: Falcons just turned into team we expected last season http://bit.ly/bxIHUh [...]

bcinbuford

September 26th, 2010
7:45 pm

All in all a very good game today. We did what we needed to do to win. We limited the big plays (you won’t stop all of them from the Saints), we kept Bree’s off the field, and we took care of the football. Glad to see another Falcons-Saints game go down to the wire. Undoubtedly one of the best rivalries in the NFL. Now we are even with the Saints in the Superdome! 45-37 Falcons all time.

MWC

September 26th, 2010
7:45 pm

Lets hope special teams can get it together before next week.

Tom Pridemore was tuff..

September 26th, 2010
7:46 pm

Greg…I was pissed @ NBC…same compliant…it’s all about Dallas…and the NY teams…

Greg

September 26th, 2010
7:47 pm

I’m not the Denny downer Greg jeez buddy you must be depressed

BeerDawg

September 26th, 2010
7:47 pm

Finally, after miserable showings by the Dawgs and Braves this wknd, we’re not loserville this week. Way to go Falcons!

FFL

September 26th, 2010
7:48 pm

WHERE IS THAT IDIOT SAINTS FAN “OUR TIME”???

LOL YOUR TIME? NOT ANYMORE CHUMP.

WHAT DO FALCONS DO? BEAT THE SAINTS!! RISE UP!

Frozen Rope

September 26th, 2010
7:48 pm

The Falcons did ok but the special teams were rough

bigdave

September 26th, 2010
7:49 pm

i thought we had the best game on tv today..

wouldnt know from the coverage..

lets say the Saints won. lead f-in story.

Kane337

September 26th, 2010
7:50 pm

60 Minutes is doing a special on Drew Brees tonight. Hahahaha. Feels great.

Greg

September 26th, 2010
7:50 pm

Tom…don’t forget about Vick an favre too no respect man

Supes

September 26th, 2010
7:50 pm

Greg, right on. Falcons will get no respect from ESPN….U gotta wait till next week on NFL countdown to even get a mention!

MWC

September 26th, 2010
7:51 pm

The Falcons were sucking against the saints, they looked bad

bcinbuford

September 26th, 2010
7:51 pm

Hey BeerDawg don’t forget about the Jackets too. Lets be proud of our Panthers (GSU) and Falcons!

MWC

September 26th, 2010
7:51 pm

Kane337 Brees played a good game, show him some love

SeenThisB4

September 26th, 2010
7:52 pm

Sorry guys for not being here sooner but I started chocking on crow and had to be taken to the E.R. However, I have decided to go ahead and jump on the Falcons bandwagon. I mean I only jumped on the aints bandwagon after they won the superbowl.

GEAUX FALCONS!!!

Brad

September 26th, 2010
7:53 pm

Seen this B4,

A little tardy with your response… heeeeeerrrre bitchy bitchy bitchy!!!!!!!!

Kane337

September 26th, 2010
7:53 pm

GROUND n POUND. That’s what the Falcons did to the Saints today.

JUSTONEWIN

September 26th, 2010
7:53 pm

Falcon bandwagon riders get off

SeenthisB4

September 26th, 2010
7:54 pm

I was wrong !

Kane337

September 26th, 2010
7:54 pm

No thanks MWC. I will definitely pass on that.

suwaneefalcon

September 26th, 2010
7:54 pm

Nice win, now time to get ready for the Niners. One game at a time.

Tom Pridemore was tuff..

September 26th, 2010
7:55 pm

If Chris Collinsworth was on fire I wouldn’t pisss on him

truth

September 26th, 2010
7:55 pm

Who cares about Brees. We Falcon fans don’t owe him anything!! He lost straight up!!

Who Dat Brees? It’s the Falcons, that who dat is. Time to change your chant aints fans. Ya’ll stole it from the Bengals anyway.

snapshot

September 26th, 2010
7:55 pm

Great Falcon’s win.!!!!!

JUSTONEWIN

September 26th, 2010
7:56 pm

All you bandwagon riders get off, because when we was losing you guys were no where to be found