By Chris Taylor, Photos by Wyatt Vaughn; Mentored by Nick Boulet
The New Orleans Saints (9-1) return to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to take on divisional rival the Atlanta Falcons (5-6). After the black and gold dominated the Philadelphia Eagles 48-7, the Saints looked to extend their winning streak to nine with a win over the Falcons. When these two teams met in week three of this season the Saints came out on top 43-37 after, a Drew Brees quarterback sneak in overtime. Coming into this game even after being stuffed with turkey and an assortment of sides, the black and gold were still hungry for some dirty birds. With the pressures of playing on Thanksgiving night and with the energy coming from The Who Dat nation, the Saints looked ready to shoot the Falcons down on offense and gobble them up on defense.
Quarterback Drew Brees on the energy from the home crowd: “I love it. It was awesome, they were amped up and the defense fed off it. The defense played tremendous today against a really explosive offense, got four turnovers, which was a huge stat in the game. Just the energy and the emotion on Thanksgiving Day, it was great.”
Coming into this week twelve matchup the Saints were listed as the 4th best offense in the league. With the mixture of a lethal passing and running game, the Saints offense seems to be unstoppable. On the first drive of the game ,the Saints showed why they should be listed as the best offense in the league. Brees’ offense would score the games’ first touchdown in only 3:49, after 28-yard pass to Tommylee Lewis.
The Saints’ savage defense would continue their photo-worthy performance early into this game. After holding the Eagles to only 7 points in week eleven, the Saints’ defense looked to stuff the Falcons offense the same way.
The offense would be given the ball back after Marcus Williams forced a fumble on Atlanta’s twenty. Brees would then throw an interception; even though the Falcons had short field the dominant Saints’ defense would hold Atlanta to a field goal, making the score 7-3.
The Saints next two drives consisted of Brees showing off his accuracy with multiple tight window passes to his number one receiver, Michael Thomas and the two head-monster, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram; both were able to get a bite of the Falcons defense.
The terrifying black and gold defense forced two more fumbles, one was recovered and sacked Matt Ryan four times and hit him three times through the first half. The Saints held the Falcons to 8 rushing yards and 145 offensive yards in the entire first half.
The Saints were able to end the first half with two forced turnovers, two touchdowns and a field goal that would give the Saints a 17-3 lead. The dual-threat offense and the forceful defense would haunt the Falcons the entire first half.
The second half of this Thanksgiving night contest was more of the same for the Saints. The defense would quickly halt the Falcons’ chances of a comeback on Atlanta’s first drive of the second half. The black and gold defensive line forced Atlanta to go for it on 4th & 2 and stuffed the run leading to a turnover on downs.
After the Saints were forced to punt and it seemed that the Falcons’ offense may have had a chance to bring themselves back into the game with a touchdown, the black and gold defense stepped up once more. Linebacker Alex Anzalone would catch an interception on Atlanta’s twenty-eight after a pass was tipped by defensive lineman, Tyeler Davison.
The black and gold offense would quickly score off of the Anzalone interception after a 5-yard touchdown pass to Keith Kirkwood by Drew Brees. The savage Saints’ defense would force their second turnover in a row after the sophomore cornerback, Marshon Lattimore stripped the ball from Calvin Ridley inches away from scoring a touchdown.
In this Thanksgiving rivalry game, even though there was no turkey given out until after the Saints dominating 31-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons, it seemed as if everyone on the team ate. The Saints defense finished with a season-high six sacks. The defense would finished with five forced fumbles, three of which were recovered. They were able to keep pressure on Matt Ryan, hitting him a total of 13 times and even grabbed another interception in the final quarter of the game. On the offensive side Brees finished with four touchdowns to four different undrafted receivers, including: Tommylee Lewis, Austin Carr, Dan Arnold, and Keith Kirkwood. Kamara would finish with 89 yards and Ingram would finish with 52 yards.
Coach Sean Payton said, on the defensive turnovers and the defensive running game, “A lot of it is effort. We had four of them [forced fumbles]; one right down on the half-yard line…It certainly helps when you can hold an opponent to twenty something yards. It helps when you know what’s coming, if they are one-dimensional. That was the case tonight.”
Coach Sean Payton on the team’s win “…I’m proud of the way that our guys played. Obviously, the turnovers were significant, the rushing yards (were significant). All of the things that lead to winning or keep you from winning were on display tonight. I am proud of our defense. I thought that we ran the ball well. It was a good win, a good division win.” The Saints showed they’re the best team in the league, and they didn’t leave a single piece of meat on the bone after they feasted on the Falcons.