The Falcons fought the New Orleans Saints once more to the very end, but just as was the case in Week 8 they came up short. The Saints escaped with a 26-23 victory to remain undefeated, as the Falcons now drop to 6-7. Chris Redman tried to lead the Falcons on a fourth quarter comeback, but they weren’t able to convert on a 4th & 2 with little more than a minute to play.
Redman led the way, rebounding from a poor performance a week ago, to have a good day. He completed 23 of 34 passes for 303 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Jason Snelling led rushers with 10 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown. Jerious Norowod added 33 yards on 9 carries. Tony Gonzalez led receivers with 6 catches for 50 yards. Michael Jenkins had 3 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown, his first of the season.Snelling also added 4 catches for 65 yards. The Falcons offense had difficulty early in the game in the redzone. The reached the redzone on three of their first four drives, but settled for field goals in each case. They were down 16-9 at halftime, but were able to tie up the game 23-23 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Saints mounted a long-drive to go up by a field goal with less than 5 minutes remaining. The Falcons turned the ball over two plays later with Redman throwing a pick to Jonathan Vilma, but hte defense was able to hold to give the offense one last chance to take the lead with 2:07 remaining at their own 15-yard line. The Falcons marched down the field and were left with a 4th & 2 with 1:07 remaining in the game. But Snelling was stopped a yard short by Vilma on a pass by Redman, sealing the victory for the Saints and another heartbreaker for the Falcons.
Defensively, the Falcons played better than most opponents have against the Saints. Their 26 points was the second lowest total the Saints have been held to this season, and the lowest since scoring 24 points in Week 4 against the New York Jets. Stephen Nicholas led defenders with 9 tackles. John Abraham (4 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 forced fumble), Jonathan Babineaux (3 tackles), Erik Coleman (5 tackles, 1 pass defended), Thomas DeCoud (7 tackles, 1 for loss), Brent Grimes (7 tackles), Chevis Jackson (3 tackles, 2 passes defended), Chris Owens (4 tackles), and Mike Peterson (8 tackles) had noteworthy games. The defense was able to come up big after a Falcon turnover game the Saints the ball in their own territory late in the fourth quarter. They got a stop on third down, and then were able to disrupt a fake field goal attempt to get the ball back for the offense for one last try. The Saints converted their first 7 third down attempts, but were only able to convert 1 of their final 4 attempts.
On special teams, Matt Bryant showed good consistency, making all 3 of this field goal attempts of 36, 30, and 27 yards. Michael Koenen only had 1 punt for 33 yards. Eric Weems had a 37-yard kickoff return that set up the Falcons final drive. An incomplete pass by Mark Brunell to Darnell Dinkins on the late fake field goal was quickly covered by the Falcons.
The Falcons have only an extreme long shot at this point to make the playoffs, and would need a lot of help from the other NFC teams. But they still do have a shot at breaking their streak of never having consecutive winning seasons if they can win their next three games. Next week they travel to New York to take on the Jets (7-6) at Giants Stadium. This is the first time in the Mike Smith era that the Falcons have had a losing record. The Falcons last played the Jets in 2005, which was a victory at home. They’ve lost their last two games on the road vs. the Jets, with their most recent loss coming in 1998. The Falcons have already played once this season at Giants Stadium, with an overtime loss to the Giants in Week 11. Counting matchups against the Giants, the Falcons have won 4 of their last 6 games at Giants Stadium. Following their game against the Jets, they will ace the Buffalo Bills at home and then end the season with a road matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.