The 11-1 Falcons leave their nemesis with egg on its face

Christopher Owens plays a little pass defense. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Christopher Owens plays a little pass defense. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The plot for this one was, er, delicious. Would the Falcons lay another egg against their nemesis? Or would they put game away early – render it over easy, so to speak – and exit sunny side up?

The hated Saints arrived in town Wednesday to an airport egging of the team bus. This became national news, and it only added to the curious history of this strangest of rivalries. (Or non-rivalry, as the Falcon-turned-Saint Curtis Lofton averred this week.) From Big Ben Right to The Yolk’s On You — let’s see Cowboys-Redskins top THAT.

No matter the buildup, Falcons-Saints is always a frenzied affair. The way Thursday’s game began, you’d have sworn the Georgia Bulldogs had donned a different red-and-black uniform and showed up two days early. The Falcons ran so fast and hit so hard and gesticulated with such force that they appeared to be wide-eyed collegians, not jaded pros.

The trouble with working with such early fervor in an NFL game is that fervor tends to flame out after a quarter or so, which is precisely what happened here. The Falcons led 17-0 after 21 minutes but were outrageously lucky to escape the first half with a 10-point lead.

Drew Brees, who lives to beat the Falcons, had stopped — at least for the moment — throwing the ball to the other team, as you figured he would. (Say what you will about the Saints, but they do have a world-class quarterback.) But New Orleans called its final timeout of the half with 2:24 remaining, and then Jimmy Graham was called for offensive interference to negate a Darren Spoles touchdown. The half ended before the Saints could array themselves for a field goal, and that was the first of several let-offs for the Falcons.

“That was huge,” Mike Smith said afterward. “We got off the field with no points, and we were reeling a bit.”

The unsteadiness continued. Brees kept driving his team in the third quarter, but the Falcons’ defense kept forcing field goals. Finally Brees did it again: His pass was intercepted by strong safety William Moore, and the Falcons moved, if only slightly, to the field goal that pushed the lead back to seven points.

It’s hard to say where the Falcons’ offense went. It pounded the league’s worst defense for 140 first-quarter yards, but over the final three periods the Saints – who cannot, we must emphasize, play a lick of D — stopped almost everything the Falcons tried. Key stat: Through three quarters, the Falcons were 0-for-7 on third-down conversions. But the offense roused itself late, and Matt Bryant’s 55-yard field goal with 4 1/2 minutes left was the clincher.

This wasn’t the first time the Falcons had authored such a halting prime-time performance. They started fast against Denver but were reduced to holding on at the end, and against Dallas they’d relied on an unassuming defense to keep the game in place long enough for the offense to wake up and win it. Toss those two games into a blender and you wound up with this one: Fast start, sluggish middle, better on D than on O.

Once again, the Falcons failed to deliver the kind of comprehensive thrashing of a brand-name opponent that would have quelled some of that they-aren’t-as-good-as-their-record chatter. And yet: Once again, the Falcons won. They fought off the Saints and moved within a Tampa Bay loss on Sunday of clinching the NFC South with a month to spare. They won their second heated game in a five-day span, and the more they win the more we need to stop asking just how they do it.

Because here’s how they do it: By being a team. Sometimes the offense bails out the defense, and sometimes vice versa. (Who would have dreamed William Moore would catch more passes in this game that Roddy White?) But every week except one the result, as Mike Smith is wont to say, has been to his team’s liking. No matter how you fry or poach or scramble it, 11-1 is 11-1.

And beating the Saints would feel good even if this team were 1-11. This marked only the third victory over New Orleans in 10 tries for the Dimitroff/Smith/Ryan troika. Better still, it reclassified the Saints’ playoff chances – they’re 5-7 – as a forlorn hope. Take that, non-rivals!

So maybe the game itself was only half as dominating as Falcons fans would have hoped. Big deal. They beat the Saints. They intercepted FIVE Brees passes. They broke the record streak for games with a touchdown pass by the quarterback who’d kept throwing late in the Superdome blowout last year to set another record. Only one team left the field with egg on its face, and it wasn’t the 11-1 Falcons.

Further reading: The powerful Falcons, Brees’ INTS and the Saints’ botch.

By Mark Bradley

212 comments Add your comment

bowfan

November 29th, 2012
11:42 pm

sweet revenge, stopping DrewB’s TD streak

Mike

November 29th, 2012
11:43 pm

It started of a good weekend. Dawgs, yall next Oh First btw

Growler

November 29th, 2012
11:43 pm

Nice win, but that offensive performance agains the not-playing-a-lick-of-d defense is a concern…

NoShamSam

November 29th, 2012
11:43 pm

Playoffs here we come

NoShamSam

November 29th, 2012
11:45 pm

Great column Mark!!!!!

bowfan

November 29th, 2012
11:45 pm

That was some good defense! Man the road to the SB is full of heart attacks and teeth grinding this time.

Jacketfan

November 29th, 2012
11:47 pm

The Dome was rockin’

MTSeats

November 29th, 2012
11:47 pm

Thank God we have 5pick Julio!

Remarkable

November 29th, 2012
11:47 pm

Drew Brees has a new record. Five interceptions. That’ll put egg on your face.

gtmike

November 29th, 2012
11:48 pm

Nice job Noodlearm Drew “Al Dente” Brees. What a nice strong pass while being tackled that Al Dente had.

RamblinWreck

November 29th, 2012
11:48 pm

Eggnog for everyone!

NoShamSam

November 29th, 2012
11:49 pm

Now Tech and Georgia do their things

Truth be Told

November 29th, 2012
11:50 pm

EGGzactly what Altanta needed! Way to go, Falcons! Bring us to the SuperBowl and lets have Brady and Ryan go at it! Pats, here come the Falcons! Wooohooo!

gtmike

November 29th, 2012
11:51 pm

Get the high chair out for Al Dente Brees so he can actually see his pass become an interception.

[...] Reaction: Falcons 23, Saints 13ESPN (blog)Not-so-warm welcome for Saints in AtlantaThe Seattle TimesThe 11-1 Falcons leave their nemesis with egg on its faceAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Yahoo! Sports -NewsOK.com -NFL Newsall 1,387 news [...]

RA

November 29th, 2012
11:53 pm

WTG Falcons. Man, that felt sweeeeet. I ended up turning the audio off on CW69 cause the announcers kept dissin the Falcons. I say we revoke those guys Atlanta passports.

retired

November 29th, 2012
11:55 pm

eggcellent ….. suck eggs Saints no playoff for you!

aint hater

November 29th, 2012
11:55 pm

Where are the trolllllllsssssssss . go Falcons and aints are toast.

[...] Reaction: Falcons 23, Saints 13ESPN (blog)Not-so-warm welcome for Saints in AtlantaThe Seattle TimesThe 11-1 Falcons leave their nemesis with egg on its faceAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Yahoo! Sports -NewsOK.com -NFL Newsall 1,387 news [...]

AtlSwagger

November 29th, 2012
11:58 pm

The sAINTS got EGG on their face!!!!!!!!!!!! It feels SO SO SO GOOD!!! And DREW BREES passing record is at 54. ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END. No playoffs for the AINTS,

PULLING for Payton Manning to beat the Bucs and bring us an NFC south CHAMPIONSHIP!

After that, we must put on our hard hads and clench the top seed in the NFC.

Saints fans; I have one question!!!!!!!!!! WHICH CAME FIRST.. THE CHICKEN OR THE EGG???

(Somebody rise up and give the lone eggman a job.. He or she is going to need one)

chuck

November 29th, 2012
11:59 pm

Where is our resident Saints fan tonight?

Problem Solver

November 29th, 2012
11:59 pm

Win if you can. Lose if you must, but always cheat.

mars=lifetime dawg

November 29th, 2012
11:59 pm

Not too early for the draft board to start analyzing OL & MLB. They may not be important to our coordinators, but they sure as hell are important in the NFL!!!

Brock Lesner

November 30th, 2012
12:00 am

Great win. Anyone catch the Falcon cheerleader’s wardrobe malfunction while doing a flip? Made the night even better!

Section 212

November 30th, 2012
12:01 am

Roddy’s tweets should be interesting tonight. Stay out of Magic City

mars=lifetime dawg

November 30th, 2012
12:02 am

Problem Solver, that appeared to be the motto of the ref’s tonight. Those weren’t bad calls, they were biased calls!

tired of mediocrity

November 30th, 2012
12:02 am

Hey who dats have fun watching playoffs at home this year and it gets better after the giants kick your butts next weekend.Great to be a falcons fan and by the way it ain’t your division no more.

BooBoo

November 30th, 2012
12:02 am

I missed the game. What happened to White? No catches?

Great Falconi

November 30th, 2012
12:03 am

Most eggcellent.

Tuggle58

November 30th, 2012
12:03 am

Defense won this game. Picking Brees off 5 times and holding them to 13 pts. is OUTFREAKINSTANDING!!!!!!!!!

Whadda Ya Know?

November 30th, 2012
12:04 am

Well looks like little brother beat big brother tonight. There always comes a time when little brother grows up and whoops DAT azz–just like tonight. Game wasn’t pretty, but the defense stepped up and shut down the Breeses. Didn’t I tell you guys as Brees goes so does the Taints!!!

ROD

November 30th, 2012
12:04 am

Great 1st half, and great defense in the second. I think we would have more picks if Samuel wasn’t hurt. They let them stay around too long, and too many drive stopped on the goal line. I will take the win, but we have to get better. You have to put a team away. I’m glad they won, but I hope Samuel shoulder will heal. GO FALCONS a well deserve rest. NOW IT’S TIME FOR THE BULLDOGS TO BRING THE NOISE AND HURT TO BAMA!!!!

LOL at The Aints

November 30th, 2012
12:05 am

Poor Seen, he’s probably feeling really down right about now,, LOL

Dallas Falcon

November 30th, 2012
12:05 am

Mark,
Somebody has to ask Mike Smith why he called the timeout in the third quarter when the falcons had the ball on the three yard line with the momentum. Next play was a negative run, then a false start, then an almost interception. That timeout was a momentum killer and probably caused the Falcons a touchdown. What happened?

Techbuzz

November 30th, 2012
12:06 am

I LOVED seeing Brees on the sidelines after every INT he threw. Granted, Ryan did the same thing a few weeks ago, but unlike Bress and ‘Ain’ts, the Falcons are 11-1 BOYEEEE!!!

I wanted this game for THIS very reason, to pretty much win the division against the defending division Champs and to prevent the Saints from being the first team to repeat as NFC South Champs. Since 2002, no NFC South team has repeat as division champs.

LOL at The Aints

November 30th, 2012
12:06 am

I’ll wait till i get JSS’s Take on the Game,, ok wait, Nevermind LOL

meme

November 30th, 2012
12:06 am

I say the EGGMAN deserves a promotion he’s a hometown hero! I say make it a tradition!! God save the EGGMAN GOO GOO AJOOB!!

LOL at The Aints

November 30th, 2012
12:07 am

Drew Sleeze still setting records in the Dome,, LOL

Herschel Talker

November 30th, 2012
12:08 am

MB:

BACK TO NEW ORLEANS WITH BAGS ON THEIR HEADS. WHO DAT?

HT

Cpt Kirk in Arkansas

November 30th, 2012
12:08 am

Fortunately wifet, who’s an aints fan, went to bed at halftime..so she didnt witness the final 3 interceptions..I got jazzed just befor the half when they ran ouit of time on the 5 yd line, and she was PO’d bout that, so the 2nd half wouldve saddened aher, every moment as I began to sneer at every A’ints mistake

I just love when we stick it to the aints, esp in view of all the aints trollers on this blog…I was diggin it on Sun when the niners were doing the same.. seems as if Brees has to take so much on himself to overcome their terrible defense but dats dat..

Tough one Aints!!!!! welcome to the future..how bad will things get when we actually replace Turner with eoiither a bigger bruiser or a breakaway back and when we get another pass rusher to help Abe..just think about how bad things will be when that happens

Turner surprised me, like he had a fire up his butt on the opening drive..I blinked in disbelief thinkin ,,,this must be 2008 or “09 this isnt now.. But not going down and thinking about ball security. on that last drive, well he nearly made the bonehead play of the game..despuite the aints self destructing..

I just love it whenever the Aints get thier arses kicked…luv it no matter who does it but whenever the Brids do it its so much sweeter!!!

need to replace Turner or..Mark My Words and we need Assante back or another corner like him to combat Brees, Cam, the top throwers in the NFC

Mora less Petrino

November 30th, 2012
12:08 am

Bad five days for the Bounty Boys: The unbeatable in November Saints take two losses, (In November!), playoff hopes are toast, and Brees’ TD streak is over.
Sweet!

St. Richt

November 30th, 2012
12:09 am

Go Dirty Birds! The offense needs to pick it up – especially the WR’s. People are quick to throw Matt Ryan under the bus, but tonight his receivers let him down big time.(especially in the first half) I’ve been an outspoken critic of “Burner Turner” all year but tonight he came to play. I liked the effort across the board- could’ve and should’ve beat the Aints by more. Who dat? WE DAT! Game ball goes to Mike Nolan for his defense. Gotta love Jacquizz yapping at Jenkins after that last first down- Jenkins of all people deserves the trash talk. Bye bye Aints.

Really?

November 30th, 2012
12:09 am

The D showed up to play big time. Who would think the Falcons would have under 300 yds of offense and only convert 1 3rd down and still win by 2 scores? Ending bree’s record and putting another nail in the taint’s rapidly disapearing playoff hopes only added to the sweeetness.

Also eggs!!!!!!!!!

extremus

November 30th, 2012
12:10 am

The defense really came through again and were crucial to securing this victory. 5 interceptions on Drew Brees was awesome (and ending his consecutive games with a touchdown streak after last year’s “run up the score” debacle was SWEET). And not only did that big INT by Moore in the 3rd quarter swing the momentum back to the Falcons when the outcome was becoming seriously in doubt; it silenced the announcers’ gushing over Brees and the Saints’ offense (something we’ve had to endure from analysts for far too long now).

That said, I really liked both Ryan’s and Gonzalez’s responses to questions after the game. They gave credit to the defense, acknowledged that there are still things they need to improve upon, and basically avoided any bulletin board material. This is a rivalry that will certainly continue for as long as these two teams are around, and right now I don’t think it could get much more passionate. Great and much needed win and a step further toward home field throughout the playoffs.

GO FALCONS!!!!

DILLIGAF

November 30th, 2012
12:10 am

The Falcons play is sporadic at best. I would love to see them put together 4 solid quarters of football on both sides of the ball just like you will see on Saturday as my Dawgs put together a game that will go down in the books as one of the most skilled display of footballmanship in NCAA history as they Roll the Tide and move on to dismantle the leprechauns the of the pretenders.

Go Dawgs!
GATA!

UGA85′

aint hater

November 30th, 2012
12:12 am

Where are the aints trolls????? i would love to hear from them…… Anyone????? Your season is over and your out.

LOL at The Aints

November 30th, 2012
12:14 am

National Media,, Move along,, nothing to see here, Falcons beat another team with a losing record! LMFAO

gtmike

November 30th, 2012
12:15 am

Drew “Al Dente” Brees throws to both teams. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

LOL at The Aints

November 30th, 2012
12:16 am

Foxsports.com,, “Falcons hold off the Aints”,, yep

I Threw the Egg

November 30th, 2012
12:18 am

Ended a record and help Brees to set one 5 int’s…… So Sweet…. Red and Black Weekend…..