Falcons’ offense hits wall, but as usual it doesn’t matter (UPDATED)

After this beauty of a touchdown catch by Tony Gonzalez made it 14-0, the Falcons' offense fizzled against New Orleans, but it didn't matter. (AP photo)

After this beauty of a touchdown catch by Tony Gonzalez made it 14-0, the Falcons' offense fizzled against New Orleans, but it didn't matter. (AP photo)

(UPDATED: 12:30 a.m.)

They keep it interesting, don’t they?

The Falcons came out against the New Orleans Saints Thursday night as if determined to bury their recent nemesis’ playoff hopes six feet under (which at least has the advantage of being out of egg-chucking range).

They led 7-0 less than four minutes into the game and 14-0 just 52 seconds into the second quarter. Most impressive of all was their offense, which is the side of the ball that ultimately will determine how far this team goes in the playoffs.

They discovered a new wrinkle: The running play. Michael Turner had a 35-yard run on the game’s second play, and before the first quarter ended he had already rushed for more yards (67) than he had in all but three of the previous 11 games.

Then the Falcons’ offense did something uncommon for any New Orleans Saints’ opponent: They hit a wall.

A team blessed with offensive weapons all over the field couldn’t gain a first down, couldn’t catch a pass, couldn’t accomplish diddly.

Did it matter? No. That’s what much of this Falcons’ season has been like: “OK, maybe they did (fill in the blank) wrong, but it didn’t matter…”

They are 11-1. New Orleans is 5-7 and probably just had its postseason hopes extinguished. The Falcons will celebrate that.

“Our big thing is to just win the game,” defensive end John Abraham said. “We can’t worry about the small, things. We can’t let anything from the outside get to us. We hear, ‘They can’t do this. They can’t do that.’ We don’t care. We just keep winning games.”

The win, they will celebrate. The Saints’ fall to 5-7, they will celebrate. (Roddy White: “I told Will Smith after the game, ‘See you next year.’”) The usually high-pyrotechnic offense, they won’t celebrate.

In the first five possessions that followed Tony Gonzalez’s 17-yard touchdown reception, which made it 14-0, the Falcons went three-and-out four times and had a gift 45-yard field goal (a two-yard drive that followed Drew Brees’ second of a career-high five interceptions). To recap: That’s five possessions, zero first downs, three points and net yardage of 9, 2, 9, 3 and 0 (total 23).

The Falcons finished with only 283 yards in offense. “They started doing a lot of things on defense, bringing down their safeties,” Julio Jones said. “We had some problems but we’ll fix them.”

They make it interesting. They make it maddening. They are your Falcons.

“We wanted to get after them  early and we did that,” White said. “We kinda made it look easy. Then after that we got kind of complacent.

“I felt like that was worse than the six-turnover game (against Arizona, also a win).There are a lot of things we have to fix. This is our mini-bye week, so we have to get in there and see what we’re doing wrong and get back to the big things that we can do.”

The old boxing trainer, George Benton, used to say: “Win tonight. Look good in the next fight.”

This Falcons seem to have adopted that philosophy.

This is when nobody complains. Credit the defense for the five interceptions and holding Brees without a touchdown pass for the first time since October of 2009 (a streak of 54 games). Credit the offense for at least not turning the ball over Credit kicker Matt Bryant for nailing a 55-yard field goal with 4:25 left to provide a 10-point lead, 23-13.

Credit the Falcons for beating a team that they entered the night 2-11 against in recent years — an ugly run of infamy. (White, as if on cue: “We’re not going to celebrate when we beat those guys. We expect to win.”)

This has become one of the NFL’s nastiest rivalries. Animosity has spilled over to the fan bases. Who would expect that the Saints, after arriving at Atlanta-Hartsfield Airport Wednesday night, would be met by EMDs (Eggs of Mass of Destruction)?

Their charter bus was hit with up to four flying eggs by an unidentified airport worker, who probably could run for mayor right now.

“Christmas gifts are on me,” White said, laughing.

Now, I don’t endorse any sports fan throwing any objects at any person or vehicle. But at least Atlanta sports fans can no longer be accused of being devoid of passion. And maybe, finally, it was a sign that the Falcons have lit a fire under this town. At 11-1, one would hope so.

By Jeff Schultz

Been kind of busy lately. If you need to catch up…

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104 comments Add your comment

zzggyy

November 29th, 2012
11:56 pm

I thought Brees threw 5 ints.

Remarkable

November 30th, 2012
12:03 am

Second. He did1

TechDan

November 30th, 2012
12:04 am

zzggyy, he did. Schultz starts writing the columns before the game is over. It’s pretty common and an easy mistake to fix.

Intellectual Ninja

November 30th, 2012
12:08 am

There is nothing worse, nothing more cowardly than play-not-to-lose football.

Mike Smith is the King of Prevent Offense.

No team with this kind of offensive talent plays so stupidly.

Someone please explain me why the Falcons deploy so many 2 TE sets? STILL???

IT’S LIKE PLAYING ONLY 10 MEN ON OFFENSE!!!

With 3 and half minutes left and a 10-point lead, Super Bowl-winning coaches like Bill Belichick, Mike McCarthy, and others with rings want to score again to put the other team away.

Play-not-to-lose coaches like Mike Smith or Marty Schottenheimer go into Ultra Prevent Offense and try to salt the clock away.

Invariably, ALWAYS giving the other team the ball back with another chance to score. As in Turner’s fumble.

I hate play-not-to-lose football. I hate Mike Smith CONTINUALLY interfering with the Falcons’ offense.

Where’s the NO-HUDDLE? Where’s the 3-4 WR sets? Where’s the explosiveness?

Hey Mike… LEAVE DIRK KOETTER ALONE!!!

USMC DAWG

November 30th, 2012
12:10 am

Remarkable

November 30th, 2012
12:14 am

Intellectual Ninja. Go away. We’re celebrating here! The Falcons won and Mike Smith is a BIG part of the winning.

IlliniDawg

November 30th, 2012
12:15 am

Gotta wait to write the story Jeff. 5 INTS for Bress and a Michael Turner fumble for a Sainst TD that was fortunately called back.

Answer This

November 30th, 2012
12:15 am

We are 11-1 so I have no complaints….but Mike Smith keep your ideas and hands off the offense!

IlliniDawg

November 30th, 2012
12:18 am

Existential question: if a “running” back is only good for 2 or 3 “runs” early in the game, and then quickly runs out of gas for the rest of the game, can he be called a “walking” back instead? Or at least a “jogging” back?

Turner needs to go. NOW.

clark kent

November 30th, 2012
12:24 am

Did the replacement refs come back to officiate this game? Roddy getting virtually tackled on the second drive of the game, Turner having forward progress stopped for about 10 seconds before being stripped of the ball. The phantom off-sides by Abraham negating a brilliant interception. Missing the Moore interception on the following play only to have it confirmed by replay.

The calls were just brutal.

aints suck

November 30th, 2012
12:32 am

READ MY NAME…….. nough said

aints suck

November 30th, 2012
12:34 am

How soon until the Aints fan base gets in here and accuses the FALCONS of cheating? I have already seen one person make the accusation on ESPN.com

gary32

November 30th, 2012
12:41 am

Mike Nolan will be the reason the last 3 years playoff losses will end….stop mole faces last 55 game streak with a td and the most interceptions Breesus has ever thrown in a game….its funny how what goes around comes around…long way from mole face breaking the touchdown record last year are we not….suck it Saints!!!!!!

diamonddaveincali

November 30th, 2012
12:51 am

until brees came to the aints, the Falcons had an 8 year lead in terms of wins. they won 16 more than the aints, and because we play them twice a year, that makes it a 8 year lead. so brees comes in and wins 11 out of 14. we have a six game lead overall. I would not say the aints own us, heck they just “Got Banged”.

Hey SeenThisB4, what happened buddy. drew threw five picks today, is he as bad as Matty Ice?
heck yeah, brees sucks. he sucks georgia dome air!

hahahahahahahahahahahaahahaha

now wait til we win the Super Bowl on your field sucka!!!!!

Ole Smoky

November 30th, 2012
12:56 am

Well said.. Bout time !

Jeff Schultz

November 30th, 2012
12:58 am

Best post-game quote comes from Roddy White (on the egg-thrower): “Christmas gifts are on me.”

gary32

November 30th, 2012
1:01 am

Hey Seen This Before……..well you never have seen this before have your….your precious Breesus throws the most picks he has ever thrown in a game and breaks his streak of 55 consecutive games with a td……remember last year and how he came in to break the td record with the game well out of hand….well what goes around comes around…enjoy your off season…lol

Maconfalcon

November 30th, 2012
1:02 am

Guess what those of you writing in criticism of Mike Smith as well as Michael Turner? The Falcons are 11 – 1 & that is the best record in the whole NFL…. I think that demonstrates Coach knows a little about what he is doing & that’s why he makes his money coaching the Falcons & YOU don’t!

gary32

November 30th, 2012
1:02 am

Let me say just one more thing…..I HATE THE SAINTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A LOT!!!!!!!!!!!!

gritz-blitz 2

November 30th, 2012
1:23 am

A great hard fought game. On to the next game. OH WHAT A RUSH !!!!! BTW, it can’t get no better than to beat them CAINT”S!!! Here is a idea for all for all CAINT’S fans and BREES fans go get a paper bag and wear it for the rest of the season.

Eric C.

November 30th, 2012
1:44 am

It is a huge concern to me that 12 games into the season, the Falcons have scored more than 30 pts only ONCE and have often looked anemic on offense against teams like the Raiders, Panthers, Cowboys, Cardinals and Saints.

This WILL NOT get it done in the playoffs. There is no way a team with this kind of talent on offense shouldn’t occasionally score 35+ points! Every game, the coaches and players talk about “fixing” these issues, but time is running out.

And strangely enough, some of their worst games are at home…will getting the #1 seed really be a good thing? I’m not sure.

flcATL

November 30th, 2012
1:59 am

no team in the nfc can match up with ATL—the falcons can beat new england in the super bowl—book it!

Adogg36

November 30th, 2012
2:11 am

Eric; c Dey on siruis radio talking about what u just blog about shaky win against teams we should have dominated.especially home games.

Stinger2

November 30th, 2012
4:55 am

Eric and Adogg36: All winning teams have some wins that are “shaky”. Any win is better than a loss. Be thankful and positive. Maybe the next win will be decisive instead of shaky.

tony

November 30th, 2012
6:03 am

The falcons need to draft Sheldon Richardson, Abry Jones and David Bass. Falcon’s defensive front is awfully weak.

Longtimefan

November 30th, 2012
6:34 am

Cannot please some fans. 11-1 team coming on the heels of a beatdown against hated rivals at home. Cmon man! No teams are perfect. Can’t we just celebrate instead of listing all the perceived deficiencies? What does it take to make some of you guys happy? Probably closet Saints fans.

Esquire

November 30th, 2012
6:35 am

5-6-7-8
Everywhere we goooO,
Everywhere we goooO,
People wanna knooOw,
People wanna knooOw,
Who we aaa are,
Who we aaa are,
So we tell theem, So we tell theem,
We are the FALCONS!! We are the FALCONS!!
MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS, MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS !!
OHH AHH OHH YEEAHH

Esquire

November 30th, 2012
6:55 am

Shout out to the entire defense!! Another big game by Robert McClain, the Bierman, William Moore, DeCoud, Owens filling in for Samuel……….!!! #55, Dunta, Babs,

Big time SHOUT OUT TO MATT BRYANT!!

Thomas Brown

November 30th, 2012
7:28 am

1st Stage Down :

FALCONS WON egged Saints bus by Airport workers

New Orleans Saints had beat Falcons 4 straight games, but Drew Brees threw 5 interceptions, and for the 1st time in 54 games, Drew Brees threw no TD pass – none that counted anyway.

____________________________________________

NEXT UP :

Georgia Bulldogs’ SEC Championship Game – an SEC team has NEVER gone to The SEC Championship Game in back-to-back seasons and NOT WON 1 of the 2 games.

Alabama did not go last year, or the year before that, or the year before that. The redshirt freshman who played in The SEC Championship for Alabama in the 4th game back now this season would be seniors this season. Those are the only players on Alabama who have been to The SEC Championship Game.

Georgia played last year, and so if in keeping, Georgia wins to keep Atlanta rolling this weekend.

Esquire

November 30th, 2012
7:31 am

Found this on NOLA (reprinted without permission)

Meanwhile, Saints quarterback Drew Brees had to eat his words after the NFL Network cameras eavesdropped on his pregame rallying speech to his teammates, when he said, “This is our division. We know it, and they know it.”

Brees was asked after the game if that had officially changed.

“No. No. We feel like we’re at the top of this division. And unfortunately this year our record doesn’t reflect that. Ut certaintly I feel like we’ve got that confidence and that pride. We’ve got a great division … but we’ve got a lot of confidence in where we stand.”

***************************************************
Even in losing they remain magnanimous bastards.

kingdaddy

November 30th, 2012
7:37 am

Is it me, or does anyone else think we need to get Linemen…BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL. Have to give Abe & Bierman credit for high-revving motors last night. Also a banged-up secondary that hung in there. The Defense was heads-up all night. That’s how we got the picks. The entire Defense deserved the game-ball…

Bill

November 30th, 2012
7:43 am

Turner ran well when they lined up Mike Cox as a lead blocker.

Mask of False Bravado

November 30th, 2012
8:23 am

Intellectual Ninja- The reason Mike McCarthy passes to put the other team away is because they have no running game. Also, both the Packers and Pats seem to protect the QB better than our O-Line. There is a better chance to turn the ball over by passing (INT, sack/fumble) than there is by rushing (fumble). It just so happens that MT had a rare fumble last night.
Having said that, we cleared a Week 13 hurdle and now can sit back and watch the other games. We also have 3 extra days to heal. Last night was a win in many ways.

hatesaints

November 30th, 2012
8:24 am

Break out your sacks for your heads Saints fans.

Stevereeno

November 30th, 2012
8:29 am

We can’t kick our way to the superbowl.

robert

November 30th, 2012
8:31 am

I thought that it was interesting that when Sproles got his mouthpiece knocked ten yards behind him down on the goal line he wasnt quite the same player the rest of the game. Didnt seem to have quite the same intensity level.

Bart's Boy

November 30th, 2012
8:32 am

I think all fans are hugely happy, maybe estatic, with this win. The critcisms are from fans looking
ahead to the play-offs and seeing certain built in flaws that could prove fatal come January. Granted, no team is perfect, but some things on this team are pretty much unfixable before January. Stubborn, conservative, old school Head Coach who plays not to lose instead of to win. Over matched, but hard trying offensive line. Talented, but immobile quarterback. Aging, overweight tail back with no burst to the hole. No punt returner at all. Maybe the will to win will somehow over come all of these weaknesses. Odds are probably against it. Every game cannot continue to come down to the last possesion. Pretty soon, your luck is going to run out. You wake up one day and you’ve put two defensive points on the board in a play-off game. Another season ended. Or you’re routed in your own building by three touchdows in a play-off game. Another season ended. Anyone else see a pattern here? I think there’s a reason for the lack of play-off sucess under the Smith/Dimitroff regime.

Joey

November 30th, 2012
8:43 am

This offensive philosophy, originally called Marty-ball is low-risk, low-reward, wins games vs equal or worse teams during the regular season. It’s especially maddening to watch, when a coach decides to sit on a small lead, with all of these weapons available.

Even Tom Coughlin abandoned the old, run-first offense and let Eli throw the ball all over the place.

The change won him 2 Super Bowls.

Mora less Petrino

November 30th, 2012
8:44 am

“This has become one of the NFL’s nastiest rivalries. Animosity has spilled over to the fan bases. ”

This has been the case since the 70’s.

Scott Shanle

November 30th, 2012
8:50 am

This is not my fault, they egged us on. Dang, I’m so embarrassed! Our little brothers just whuped our arse!

robert

November 30th, 2012
8:59 am

Got to run it some. Cant become a pass only offense. The D coordinators in this league are good enough they can take that away from you. The great defenses will for sure.

SawThat1nce

November 30th, 2012
9:06 am

Saints own the Div., they know it, and the Falcons know it.
Did I hear somebody say that before the game last night?

Dawglasville

November 30th, 2012
9:06 am

I’m in my office listening to people cry about how poorly we played last night. We are missing our 2 starting cornerbacks and we held Brees to 13 points. We are 11-1. Quit waiting for the other shoe to drop and enjoy it.

DP

November 30th, 2012
9:07 am

“Credit the offense for at least not turning the ball over”

Jeff, you must have written this line during the game because Michael Turner got stripped of the ball just before the 2 minute warning.

Bart's Boy

November 30th, 2012
9:07 am

@ Joey
Agreed! Coughlin, who used to be be as “old school” as they come, did indeed change! So, It’s been proven it’s possible. But Smitty? I’m not sure there’s any blood to get out of that particular turnip. Since, maybe under pressure from the top, you’ve got two new coordinators, one of which may not be around for long, Trust them. Use them. You’ve got to make hay while the sun shines, do you not? Roll the frigging dice for once in your life. Let it all hang out! Lead or get the bee Jesus out of the way. It may not be your nature, and it may go against your grain, but you actually may find out it’s a lot of fun. You’ll be called a genius. I’m begging you. There’s no time like the present. Just, do it!

SawThat1nce

November 30th, 2012
9:08 am

Classic case of “little brother” getting up, and high-fiving “big brother” straight across the mouth.
ha ha

SawThat1nce

November 30th, 2012
9:17 am

The Falcons defeated the Saints and beat the NFL Zebras, also.
Looked like the officials were doing everything they could, to give New Orleans another game.

ATLien

November 30th, 2012
9:19 am

The saints were 5-6 coming into this game and the falcons were 10-1. This is a game they SHOULD have won easily. I’m not excited about this win. They notched another W against the worst defense in the HISTORY of the league. Keep piling up the Ws and stay focused. The real test is against the Giants on December 16. Falcons are playing for home field while the giants will be trying to secure their playoff positioning as well. Thats my barometer on how real this falcons team is. This team HAS TO WIN SOME PLAYOFF GAMES.

Striped Shirt

November 30th, 2012
9:21 am

Since Smith, Dimitroff and Ryan arrived, the Atlanta Falcons have the best regular season record in the NFC, having won 54 and lost just 22. During that period, the Falcons are the only NFC team with more than 50 regular season victories Additionally, Atlanta is the only NFC team to have all winning seasons over that time span.

Prior to Smith, Dimitroff and Ryan, the Falcons usually were not worth the price of admission. Now they are the envy of the league. So for those who constantly find fault with Smith, how many wins do you have?

P B Orr

November 30th, 2012
9:21 am

Anybody seen Choke? Did he drown himself in a vat of Varsity grease?