Saints over Falcons in Week 12: Observations from the cheap seats

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The Saints started off the holiday season with a Thanks-taking from the Falcons in Week 12. They took the ball away four times en route to victory. A Dirty Bird feast!

The Atlanta Falcons came to town in Week 12 much like the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 11. Well, minus the Super Bowl ring. The Falcons have been a team decimated by injury this season. One running back, several defensive backs, their star linebacker, a couple of offensive linemen.

But this is the NFL. No one will have sympathy for you. The Saints’ mantra is “Next Man Up” and they’ve lived that through injuries to some solid players, including Patrick Robinson and Ted Ginn, Jr. And let’s be honest, who among the Who Dat Nation would ever feel sorry for the Falcons? They have beaten us when we’ve been down players. We were short Mark Ingram in the first meeting of the year.

The New Orleans Saints continued their dominance of the NFC in defeating Atlanta 31-17. The Saints of today are simply a better team than Atlanta and it feels great to be able to say that. These teams match up well when healthy, as do many of the teams in the division. But currently, the Saints simply can’t be matched up well by many in the league.

The beauty of the Thursday night contest was that the Saints took the only thing Atlanta had going for them and crushed it. Atlanta’s defense isn’t very good right now. Whether they’re just not quite as talented or due to the injuries or some combination, they simply don’t have much going on defense. So to win, they need to score with other teams. They have the weapons to do this: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Tevin Coleman. All are capable of making defenses work. But the Saints defense went on full lockdown mode. Four takeaways and six sacks left the Falcons’ wings clipped.

The Saints’ offense was not the show this time out. Don’t get it twisted, four passing TDs for Drew Brees is always a solid day. And the Falcons didn’t have an answer for Alvin Kamara. But the offensive numbers were relatively pedestrian. Brees only passed for 171 yards. No receiver went over 50 yards receiving. Kamara was held under 100 all-purpose yards (well, just over 100 if you include the 7-yard punt return). The Black and Gold offense was efficient but not prolific.

‘Dat defense though. The Saints defense was kryptonite for the Falcons offense. Sure, Jones, Ridley, and Sanu combined for 314 yards. But they only scored one TD between the three of them, so those are empty yards. In addition, both Ridley and Jones gave up huge fumbles negating the positivity of their yards. Turnovers are costly. Red zone turnovers are deflating. That’s what happened to Atlanta.

As well, the Saints held the Falcons to only 26 rushing yards. Not a typo, 26. Matt Ryan was their leading rusher. They had as many penalty yards as they did rushing yards. The Saints run defense is simply stellar.

Just an observation before my observations. Atlanta signed Matt Ryan to a $150 million deal. They avoided a holdout by Julio Jones by restructuring his deal in the offseason. Jones had three TD catches last season and has only three so far this season. His fumble came deep in the red zone, as he was potentially about to score (he has almost as many fumbles, two, as TDs). Ryan has thrown five interceptions and fumbled seven times. More than that Ryan has been sacked 33 times for 217 yards. Over two full football fields worth of sack yards. They need to look Ryan in the eye and tell him you can play for your own money somewhere else. If you want to win, take a pay cut so we can get a better offensive line. But I digress.