Season Records Be Damned—The Falcons Proved Their Rivalry with the Saints Is Still Alive

Story and photos by Wyatt Vaughn, freshman at Nicholls State University and Chris Taylor, junior at St. John the Baptist STEM Magnet High School.

At one point in the fourth quarter between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints, a fan in the front rows started to shout at the Saints bench about waiting two weeks just to see today’s ugly loss. And it was ugly. The Saints barely scraped together three field goals to Atlanta’s 26 points. 

Fans yelling invectives at their losing team isn’t a new thing, but one of the Saints trainers turned and chirped back at this fan—one of the few left in the Superdome at that point. Then, Alvin Kamara turned and gave the man a death stare worth a thousand words.

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara delivers a deadly stare towards chirping fan. Photo by Chris Taylor.

Coming off of a bye week—and after securing five huge wins without his star quarterback—Sean Payton could easily be considered one of the best coaches in the league. But don’t tell that to the Atlanta Falcons, as they made the Saints and their newly-engaged head coach look silly over the course of the Falcons’ victory. The Saints mustered only 310 total yards and allowed Drew Brees to be sacked six times in the game.

As most know by now, the Falcons and Saints have a heated rivalry that often decides the winner of the NFC South. Though the Saints have been extremely successful this season, the same cannot be said for the 1-7 Falcons. 

But this matchup has always meant more to these teams than just a game. 

It will always be a tough game no matter the records, and ramifications of the game and Sunday was no different. The decibel level hit 126 in the stadium, which is just two below the record for the stadium, while the referees were breaking up fights on the field. 

But that’s far from odd in a Saints-Falcons regular-season showdown. The fans were fantastic and affected the Falcons many times in the game, but the same cannot be said for the Saints team. The Saints repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with mindless penalties and looked soft. Give credit to Atlanta, they played well enough to earn the win, but the Saints played nowhere near what they are capable of. 

The intense physicality of the game presented itself very early. The Falcons pushed the ball down slowly, but after back-to-back false start penalties, caused by ecstatic Saints fans, the Falcons were held to a field goal, making the first their mark on the scoreboard.

Saints’ wide receiver flexes after his teammate Tre’Quan Smith makes an amazing grab while having his helmet knocked off. Photo by Chris Taylor.

Sitting on a 4-0 record at home, the Saints started out firing, so there’s clearly nowhere that the Saints would rather be playing. Drew Brees connected on all of his three passing attempts, showing no sign of discomfort after returning from his thumb injury just two weeks ago. 

Taysom Hill, the “Mormon Missile” threw an amazing pass that was topped by the receiver Michael Thomas’ balletic catch and a toe-tap on the edge of the sideline. Hill followed that up with a reception from Brees, showing off his versatility once again. Sadly, this was the most dynamic offense would look the whole game. The Saints were forced to kick a field goal, tying up the score at 3-3.

Atlanta’s defense held the Saints offense to 157 total yards, but their offense racked up 200 total yards in the first half and took a 13-6 lead going into halftime. After their impressive first drive, the Saints’ offensive seemed to be slowing down tremendously.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees reads the hawking Falcons’ defense. Photo by Chris Taylor.

This lackluster first-half performance from the Saints carried into the third quarter. They squandered the opportunity of having the first possession and quickly punted away to the Falcons. After a big defensive stand, the offense finally found some momentum and drove the ball all the way down to the Falcons’ goal line. Yet again, the Falcons defense came up huge and held the Saints to their third field goal of the game.

But the Falcons were not going to let the Saints come back that easily. 

In 13 plays and 75 yards, the Falcons methodically diced up the Saints’ defense, capping it off with a 10-yard Brian Hill reception for a touchdown. The Saints gained a little momentum with a Deonte Harris kick return out to the 50 yard line, putting the offense in a prime position to score. 

Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill hurdles into the end zone. Photo by Chris Taylor.

Once again the Saints drive stalled out— after a holding call on a play in which the Saints gained a first down. The Saints’ defense managed to keep the Saints in the game with a big stop of the Atlanta offense. Yet once again, the Saints penalty problem reared its ugly head after a roughing the punter call, gifting Atlanta a first down and a field goal, giving the Falcons a 14 point lead.

After getting the ball back, the Saints had one more chance to get back in the football game. But once again the Falcons rose up and sacked Brees twice, basically sealing the game for Atlanta. Marcus Williams nabbed a clutch interception to give the Saints the ball back. But it took Atlanta just four plays to get the Saints to turn the ball over on downs, and the Falcons finally sealed the game with one last field goal. 

The Saints slide to 7-2 on the season after one of their worst performances in recent history. They were not ready to play this game and seemed mentally vacant for four quarters. They will need to step it up in order to continue their quest for the Super Bowl.

New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins, Shy Tuttle, and Cameron Jordan sit in sorrow after allowing 143 rushing yards. Photo by Chris Taylor.

Next week, the Saints match up in a road battle against division rival the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, playing their second of three straight divisional games. The Buccaneers are sitting on a 3-6 record coming off a win against the Arizona Cardinals. The Bucs are 1-3 at home.