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Falcons lay down against Saints

December 27th, 2011
Getty Images from Yahoo! Sports

Jones gets hit

The Falcons suffered their worst margin of defeat since 2007 with a 45-16 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. The last time the Falcons lost by 29 or more points was a 34-point loss in December of 2007 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It also extends the Falcons loss record on Monday Night Football to six straight games, including five to the Saints.

Matt Ryan completed 34 of 52 passes for 373 yards and a touchdown. His yardage mark broke his career high of 351 yards set earlier this season against the Saints. Michael Turner rushed for 39 yards on 11 carries on the ground. He also caught 4 passes for 36 yards. Roddy White led receivers with 11 catches for 127 yards. Julio Jones (8 catches, 128 yards, 1 touchdown), Tony Gonzalez (5 catches, 41 yards), and Jason Snelling (4 catches, 28 yards) also contributed to the aerial attack. Offensively, the Falcons had almost no success on the ground, resulting in Ryan matching his career high of 52 pass attempts.  And they failed to score touchdowns on any of their three redzone trips. Matt Bryant connected on three field goals of  34, 51, and 30 yards. Matt Bosher punted 3 times for an average of 50 yards, with 1 placed inside the 20-yard line. Eric Weems averaged 27 yards on his lone kickoff return. Coverage units gave up a 92-yard kickoff return to the Saints.

Defensively, the Falcons really struggled, only forcing two punts all game, which only came in the fourth quarter when the score was out of hand. The Saints were able to convert 10 of 13 third down attempts. They gave up 463 total yards, including 164 on the ground which is the most given up by the Falcons defense in their past eighteen outings. They did force two turnovers, but hardly had any pressure with Brees being sacked only once. Thomas DeCoud led the team with 10 tackles. Kroy Biermann (4 tackles); Dominique Franks (1 interception, 2 passes defended); Brent Grimes (7 tackles, 2 passes defended); Curtis Lofton (9 tackles, 1 for loss); William Moore (6 tackles, 4 passes defended); Mike Peterson (4 tackles); Dunta Robinson (4 tackles, 1 interception); and Vance Walker (1 sack) had noteworthy games.

The Falcons started the game well with Ryan converted two third downs on their opening drive to put the team in Saints territory. The drive stalled when an 8-yard dump-off to Jacquizz Rodgers fell short of the first down marker on 3rd & 11. And the Falcons had to settle for a 34-yard field goal from Bryant to take a 3-0 lead with an 11-play drive that chewed 6 minutes of clock. But the Saints quickly responded as Drew Brees hit Lance Moore on a 38-yard strike on the first play of the ensuing drive. The Saints had little issue moving the ball, having 3 runs on their next 6 plays combine for 31 yards. The drive was capped off by a 4-yard run by Pierre Thomas to take a 7-3 lead with 5:35 left to go in the first quarter. But the Falcons would answer back as Ryan found Julio Jones on a 25-yard pass play to move the ball into Saints territory on the following drive’s fourth play. Then four plays later, he found Jones again for a 21-yard touchdown strike to take back the 10-7 lead with over a minute remaining in the first quarter. The Saints got the ball back and moved the ball 32 yards on three plays as the first quarter came to a close. Three plays later, Brees would convert the first of many 3rd downs with a 14-yard connection to Marques Colston. An unnecessary roughness penalty against Curtis Lofton on the next play put the Saints at the Falcons 14-yard line. And three plays later, Brees found Colston again for an 8-yard touchdown pass. The Falcons followed with a three-and-out giving the Saints the ball back with roughly 11 minutes remaining in the first half. Brees would convert two third downs on that drive, and get another converted thanks to a pass interference penalty on Sean Weatherspoon. But on the next play, Brees end zone pass was tipped in the air by Curtis Lofton and William Moore, and landed in the waiting arms of Dominique Franks for the touchdown, marking the Falcons first defensive stop. With five minutes left in the second quarter, the Falcons tried to retake the lead, but a holding call on Rodgers on 3rd & 10 negated 13-yard pass from Ryan to Harry Douglas, which ultimately resulted in the Falcons punting the ball back to the Saints. The Saints took full advantage of that opportunity, gaining possession at their own 20-yard line with 2:19 to go in the first half. Even after getting an advantage on a delay of game penalty to force a Saints 3rd & 13 at their own 32, the Falcons gave up a big play on a 41-yard pass to Robert Meachem. After moving the ball 18 yards on their next two plays and calling their remaining timeouts, Brees hit Jimmy Graham for a 9-yard score with just 30 seconds left on the clock, giving the Saints a 21-10 lead. The Falcons ultimately knelt on the ball to end the first half.

Things looked to be moving the Falcons way at the outset of the second half, as Brees was picked off for a second time by Dunta Robinson on an overthrown pass on the third play of their opening series. But the Falcons could not respond with a three-and-out thanks in part to pressure from Junior Galette off the right side on third down. After the Falcons punt, Darren Sproles burst up the middle for a 36-yard run on the first play of the Saints next offensive possession. And five plays later, Brees once again found an open receiver in the end zone, hitting Colston for a 24-yard scoring strike. The Falcons did answer back on their next series, with Ryan hitting Jones for a 40-yard pass play on first down. But penalties stalled the drive with a false start on Will Svitek and an illegal use of hands by Tyson Clabo. And the Falcons ultimately settled for another Bryant field goal, this time from 51 yards to cut the Saints lead to 28-13. But almost any hope for a comeback shriveled up when Sproles took the ensuing kickoff 92 yards. But Chris Owens was able to push him out of bounds to prevent a touchdown. And the Falcons finally were able to thwart BRees on third down, forcing the Saints to settle for a 29-yard John Kasay field goal to push their lead back to 18 points. The Falcons got the ball back with 3 minutes to go in the third quarter, and were able to chip away at the Saints defense to move the ball before the quarter ended. A personal foul penalty for roughing the passer on Tom Johnson helped move the ball into Saints territory. And  two third down conversions later found the team in the redzone. A 10-yard pass to Michael Palmer underneath put the ball down at the Saints 6-yard line. But in the ensuing three plays, which included an intentional grounding penalty by Ryan, the Falcons were unable to punch it in. And again, Bryant kicked his third field goal of the night from 30 yards out. The Falcons defense got their first true stop of the night with a three-and-out on the next Saints possession. But on the opening play of the Falcons next offensive series, Julio JOnes was stripped from behind after an 8-yard completion, and Malcolm Jenkins scooped the ball up to run 30 yards for a touchdown to give the Saints a 38-16 lead with 11 minutes left in the game. Ryan and the Falcons passing game were able to move the ball downfield, with five completions for 62 yards. But they once again stalled in the redzone, including a missed opportunity on 4th & 1 from the Saints 9-yard line. Both teams traded possessions afterwards, with a Saints three-and-out followed up by a Falcons four-and-out. The Saints got the ball back with 5 minutes to go, and Brees connected on two of his next four passes to be within 7 yards of the single-season record set by Dan Marino in 1984. He broke the record with a 9-yard scoring strike to Jimmy Graham. The Falcons got the ball back with less than 3 minutes to go, and Chris Redman entered the game. Mostly with passes to Eric Weems and other reserves, they salted away the remaining time to finish the game 45-16.

 

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