The Falcons came into the game against the New Orleans Saints with a lot of momentum because they were the only team in the NFL that was undefeated.
However, the Saints won three of their last four games coming in to the contest, and thanks to a solid running game and the consistent play of Drew Brees, the Saints came away with a 31-27 win over the Falcons.
It looked like the Falcons were well on their way to their ninth win of the season after Matt Ryan threw a touchdown pass to offensive lineman Mike Johnson and Matt Bryant nailing a field goal after Asante Samuel picked off Brees’ first pass attempt of the game to give them the 10-0 lead.
But the Saints came roaring back as they scored 14 unanswered points thanks to 69-yard touchdown run by Chris Ivory midway through the first quarter and a Brees’ 29-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham early in the second quarter.
The Falcons answered with a drive of their own as Matt Ryan threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez to give the Falcons the 17-14 lead midway through the second quarter. But the Saints would answer right before halftime with Brees’ throwing another touchdown pass to Graham to give the Saints the 21-17 lead.
There was only one score in the third quarter when Brees threw a 7-yard pass to Marques Colston to put the Saints up by 11. The Falcons would not give up as they scored 10 consecutive points in the fourth quarter. Ryan threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Gonzalez and then Bryant kicking a 20-yard field goal three minutes later.
The Saints would add three points to their lead when Garrett Hartley kicked a 31-yard field goal with 5:54 left in the game.
That gave Ryan and company plenty of time to put a game-winning drive together. Starting at their own 20-yard line, Ryan was able to complete intermediate passes to Jacquizz Rodgers and Gonzalez, which put the Falcons at the Saints 1-yard line with two minutes left. But the Falcons could not punch it in as Ryan missed Roddy White on a 4-and-2 play, which led to a turnover on downs.
The Falcons did get the ball back with less than 50 second left, but Ryan overthrew Roddy White deep in Saints territory and then Gonzalez dropping a first down pass on fourth down, which gave the Saints the ball with 16 seconds remaining.
Ryan had a strong game, completing 34 of his 52 attempts for a career high 411 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He was able to distribute the ball to eight different receivers and rarely got touched.
But the Falcons defense had issues stopping the run and had issues covering Graham. Led by Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram, the Saints rushed for 148 yards while Graham had seven catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Another issue the Falcons had is the consistency of the redzone offense. The Falcons could not get touchdowns when they needed to and part of it was the running game never got going. Michael Turner rushed for 15 yards on 13 carries while Jacquizz Rodgers had 29 yards on three carries.
The Falcons now drop to 8-1 and have a three game lead on the Tampa Bay Bucs for the NFC South lead with seven games left in the season. Many fans wanted to see the Falcons run the table, but this loss may help this team in the long run. They have some issues they have to clean up on both sides of the ball and having them lose now will give them a better understanding what they need to do in order to be a better football team down the road.