Falcons Feast on Saints, 30-14: 3 Things We Learned
The only thing that was decided on Sunday, besides a 30-14 win over New Orleans on Sunday is the Saints have been eliminated from playoff contention and the team may be in store for a major rebuilding project in 2015.
The Falcons, 6-9 on the season are in a head-to-head war with Carolina for the NFC South crown as the two will face each other in Atlanta next Sunday. The team also proved that there is no place like their own division as it is 5-0 this season and 1-9 against the remainder of the league.
New Orleans (according to the Associated Press in a story seen on ESPN.com) may have been done in anyway by Julio Jones' remarkable return from a hip injury. But the 30-14 Falcons triumph that eliminated the Saints from playoff contention Sunday may be most remembered for officials' decision to rule Graham's fourth-quarter catch a fumble instead of a touchdown.
"Did I think it was a score? Yes," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "It looked pretty clear and yet -- look -- it is what it is, right? They go back to (NFL headquarters in) New York with that and it's disappointing.
Atlanta next meets Carolina (6-8-1) for the NFC South title next week in the Georgia Dome. The Saints (6-9) are left with an anticlimactic visit to Tampa Bay.
Here are three things we learned about this game and the Falcons moving forward.
A FINE DAY FOR RYAN
Matt Ryan was 7-of-8 for 107 yards targeting Julio Jones, including 3-of-3 for 63 yards on throws at least 15 yards downfield. Jones wasn't the most-targeted Falcon (Roddy White had 9 targets), but was easily Ryan's most-effective weapon. Ryan averaged twice as many yards per attempt to Jones as every other Falcon combined.
Ryan completed 30 of 40 passes for 322 yards and a touchdown, and Devonta Freeman ran for a 31-yard score.
A STIFF BREES
Drew Brees was 16-of-27 for 226 yards and two interceptions on throws deeper than 5 yards downfield, his 1st game with multiple interceptions and no touchdowns on those throws since Week 16 of last season. - Brees couldn't connect on his 1st 5 throws to Jimmy Graham, and didn't complete a pass to Graham until 3:08 left in the 3rd quarter, at which point the Falcons led 20-7.
The Falcons sacked Brees 5 times Sunday, the Falcons' most in a game this season and tied for their most in a game in the last 9 seasons. Atlanta had 9 sacks in Week 4 of 2005 against the Vikings.
Falcons running back Steve Jackson (quad), safety Williams Moore (shoulder) and cornerback Josh Wilson (hamstring) all left the game and coach Mike Smith did not update their status. ... The Saints lost five straight at home in the same season for the first time since 1980, when Archie Manning was quarterback and New Orleans went 1-15.