This post is an adjunct to the Falcons-Saints game column, which can be found here.
1. Mike Smith erred in not going for two after the Falcons cut the lead to 28-23. Smith’s position was that, with 13:57 remaining, it was too early. “You don’t even start looking at the 2-point chart until there’s seven minutes to go,” he said. But a 2-point conversion would have drawn the Falcons within a field goal, and the successful 1-pointer pulled them only within four, which is essentially the same as being down five: You still need a touchdown (or two field goals) to take the lead. And a successful 2-pointer would have left the Falcons within tying range on their final three possessions.
2. You might never see a better duel of tight ends. The Saints’ Jimmy Graham caught seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. (Gonzalez’s were the 100th and 101st touchdowns of his distinguished career.) Both tight ends played college basketball — Graham at Miami, Gonzalez at California — and both punctuated touchdowns this given Sunday by dunking over the crossbar. Asked if he ever worries about getting too old to dunk, Graham said: “I’m 6-foot-7. I’ll always be able to do that.”
3. The league’s least-penalized team hurt itself badly. Asante Samuel intercepted Drew Brees’ first pass and returned the ball to the Saints’ 12 but was flagged for excessive celebration, a penalty not often assessed in the NFL. Pushed back to the 27, the Falcons wound up kicking a field goal to lead 10-0 after five-plus minutes. As any coach will tell you, there’s a big difference between 10-0 and 14-0. And when the Saints punted inside the final minute, a holding penalty on Lawrence Sidbury moved the Falcons from their 41 to the 31 with 37 seconds remaining — another significant reversal at another significant moment.
Further reading: Bill Barnwell of ESPN’s Grantland on why Mike Smith should have gone for two.
Further still: Chase Stuart of Football Perspective — I really like Football Perspective, by the way — on why Mike Smith should have gone for two.
And even further: Jason Lisk of The Big Lead on why Mike Smith’s bigger error was on the next possession.
And further again: A Football Commentary chart on when you really should go for two.
By Mark Bradley