Falcons lose in wild finish in New Orleans

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The Falcons showed winning effort in a losing game against the Saints on the road with a 35-27 game that came down to the final seconds. The Saints controlled the game in the first half and held a 14-point lead at halftime. But the Falcons rebounded with a strong second half, shutting out the Saints prolific offense until the final minutes. And with less than 2 minutes to go with an 11-point lead, the game looked over after a turnover on downs. But the Falcons were able to force a turnover, kick a field goal with 28 seconds remaining, and recovered an onside. Unfortunately their attempts to provide a miracle finish finally ended with an interception by Matt Ryan with 3 seconds remaining.

Ryan passed for 289, completing 19 of 42 passes with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. HIs 46.6 passer rating for the evening was the worst since his second game vs. the Buccaneers in 2008. His 3 picks were a career high as well. The Falcons offense was led mostly on the legs of Michael Turner who rushed for 151 yards on 20 carries and a score. Tony Gonzalez led receivers with 6 catches for 89 yards, while Roddy White added 4 catches for 108 yards and a score. Michael Jenkins also had 4 catches for 66 yards. The Falcons offense struggled in the first half. Matt Ryan had an interception returned for a touchdown to give the Saints their fourth first half score. They were unable to capitalize on Saints turnovers, only converting 3 points on 3 chances created by the defense.

The Falcons defense didn’t have much of an answer for the Saints offense in the first half, allowing 288 total yards and the Saints converted all 4 of their third downs. They were better in the second half, forcing several three and outs and limiting their third down conversions to 3 for 8. The Falcons forced four turnovers, and were able to score off a Drew Brees fumble. Curtis Lofton led the defense with 14 tackles. Kroy Biermann (2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery for a touchdown), Erik coleman (10 tackles, 1 forced fumble), Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles, 1 forced fumble), Brent Grimes (7 tackles, 1 interception), Tye Hill (4 tackles), Stephen Nicholas (6 tackles, 1 fumble recovery), Mike Peterson (7 tackles), and Coy Wire (1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble) had noteworthy games. Wire’s fumble recovery with 1:23 left in the game, gave the Falcons a second chance for a win.

On special teams, Jason Elam missed his first two field goal attempts of 34 and 51 yards, but then connected on his next two of 25 and 40 yards.  MIchael Koenen had 3 punts for an average of 38.7 yards with 2 inside the 20-yard line. Eric Weems had 5 kickoff returns for an average of 26.4 yards and 1 punt return for 9 yards. Wire also recovered the onside kick that gave the Falcons their final shot at pulling out the improbable win.

The Falcons fall to 4-3 and are now 3 games behind the New Orleans Saints in the division, a gap that may be insurmountable. Next week the Falcons host the Washington Redskins (2-5). The Falcons last matchup against the Redskins was a 24-14 victory in D.C. back in 2006. Prior to that, the Falcons had lost six straight to the Redskins. They’ve lost 3 of their last 4 against the Redskins at home. So far this year, the Falcons are undefeated at home, while the Redskins are winless on the road. The Redskins will be coming off a bye, getting an extra week to try and prepare for the Falcons.

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Aaron Freeman
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