STAYING POSITIVE: Despite loss, Falcons did many good things against Saints

The Atlanta Falcons came up on the wrong side of a thrilling game against the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The emotional 26-23 overtime loss left the Falcons team and fans somewhere below frustrated but north of devastated.

The Falcons vs. Saints games are now officially the biggest rivalry in the division. These teams are the class of the NFC South. By holding the Falcons (5-4) scoreless on two drives in overtime and flying out of town with a victory, the Saints (7-3) proved to be the better team.

Afterwards, Atlanta head coach Mike Smith simply and appropriately lamented, “We didn’t make the plays that we needed to make, and the Saints made more plays than we did.” As deflated as the atmosphere was all over after John Kasay’s 26-yard field goal sent the Saints celebrating on the field and on the plane back to Louisiana, it’s fair to look at the positives if you’re a Falcons fan.

What went right for the Falcons …

Harry’s Big Day

Harry Douglas stepped up and filled the void left by Julio Jones balky hamstring. While, the medical staff didn’t allow Jones to play after the first half, Douglas made the most of his opportunities. He led all receivers in the game with 133 yards. His catches on the drive that allowed the Falcons to tie the game went beyond the label “clutch.” Douglas jumpstarted the drive, catching three consecutive passes for 96 yards.

Third Downs on Defense

The key to beating the Saints is to get their offense off the field. The Falcons held New Orleans to 4-of-13 on third down conversions, and won the time of possession battle by over six minutes for the game. Obviously, that effort wasn’t enough.

The Responsibility Factor

Smith took personal responsibility for the loss three times (at last count) in his post-game press conference. He was upfront and said that the decision to go for it on fourth down from their own 29-yard line in overtime, was squarely on his shoulders. He added that the failure was not the fault of any player, but that the risky play call was an educated, calculated risk based on the recent history of when these two teams play. He didn’t want Saints quarterback Drew Brees to touch the ball again. Other coaches might have put the blame on the execution in such a short yardage situation “How do you not get a foot and a half with the game on the line?” But, Smith protected his guys. He knows there’s a lot of football left this season, and there are seven meaningful games left to play this winter.

The Falcons have some work to do. They need to start another win streak in order to make the playoffs. Right now, they are good team but certainly not a great one. While they did somethings right against the Saints, they didn’t do enough, didn’t make enough plays. The Falcons still have a solid foundation, but now, they need to finish what they’ve started building.

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