New Orleans Saints: Breaking down the home stretch and predicting the final four
The Atlanta games always have an air of “extra” to them. They are our longest, most-heated rivalry from the days of the old NFC West where we fought to see which team would NOT be last in the league behind the Niners and Rams.
But this extra was different. The Falcons had come into our house and not only beaten us, but embarrassed us. They took our lunch money. We wanted it back. This one was more than just to get right – it was to get even.
The Saints were going to have to manage emotion in this game because these games have a tendency to be very charged emotionally normally, without the revenge factor.
And the penalty bug is enough without having added yardage due to being out of control. The Saints handled everything very well, making this more a business trip.
This was the second Thanksgiving matchup of the teams in as many years. Being a short week made the game tougher.
But the Saints have an advantage in that sense. Former Saints lineman Zach Strief mentioned during the week of the game that the defensive linemen have the toughest challenge for Thursday games. They go full speed in the trenches so much that the recovery is tough.
They are the ones who seem to not recover as well on short weeks.
The Saints have a full eight-player rotation for their defensive front, so no one has to be too overwhelmed or overworked.
And, it was obvious that was a major part of the advantage for the Saints as they sacked Matt Ryan nine times; four by Cam Jordan alone (for that performance he was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Week).
The 26-18 score isn’t indicative of the Saints’ dominance of the game, mostly. Atlanta scored one TD in the first quarter and didn’t score another until 3:31 left in the game. Of course, the highlight of the game for Saints fans was the third-quarter interception by defensive tackle Shy Tuttle.
The big man batted down a Ryan pass, then grabbed it against his body. He lumbered 19 yards on the return, stiff-arming Ryan in the process to create the GIF that will continue to give for years to come.
Of course, there is the bad… it wouldn’t be an Atlanta game without some bad. First, two linebackers were hurt in the game and the Saints have re-signed Manti Te’o as a result.
That’s not a good sign. Then, the onside kicks. There have been scant few successful onside kicks in the NFL with the new kickoff rules. Atlanta successfully converted TWO onside kicks (three counting the one called back for offsides).
The Saints have that to clean up.