Falcons vs. Saints: Live Game Grades and Player Analysis for Atlanta
Down 28-17 entering the fourth quarter, the Falcons clawed their way back to get within four with 37 seconds left to play, but ultimately came up short to their rivals.
Here's a look at the Falcons' final Week 10 game grades.
Overall Ryan performed exceptionally well, completing 33 of 46 passes for a career-high 402 yards and three touchdowns to just one interception. He ran the ball when needed, stayed in the pocket to pass despite knowing the hit was coming, and got the Falcons in position to come back in the fourth quarter. It simply just wasn't enough.
Ryan didn't let his third-quarter interception from taking his chances, first throwing a perfectly-placed touchdown pass to Gonzalez before making his longest completion of the game on a deep 52-yard pass to Jones on the ensuing drive.
But Ryan probably woud like to have back an endzone pass to Jones that was just out of his reach, as well as a later pass on 4th-and-goal on which he threw an incomplete pass to Roddy White on a play which saw Tony Gonzalez standing wide open in the endzone.
It ended up costing the Falcons the game, as Ryan was unable to lead the team to victory on the offense's final drive of the afternoon.
Ryan's mistake-free game is no more after throwing his first interception of the game on a pass in which his receiver became the defender. He'll get credited for the interception, but though it should be noted wideout Drew Davis didn't help by slowing down before the ball was thrown.
Aside from that, Ryan continued to make ball security a priority and even showed great touch on a 19-yard pass to Gonzalez.
With near-inexistent running game, Ryan led Falcons on 80-yard touchdown drive on offense's first possession of quarter. He kept his poise throughout, throwing three third-down conversion passes.
Overall, Ryan has played a relatively mistake-free game so far.
Ryan made good, quick reads throughout the first quarter as he finished 9-for-10 for 114 yards and a touchdown. He showed he was not afraid to take a shot downfield either, completing a 49-yard pass to Roddy White off play action.
White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez put on a show Sunday, but the offensive line's inability to consistently give Michael Turner the push he needs in 3rd-and short situations ultimately is what brings down this grade.
Entering the quarter down 28-17, the Falcons stayed cool as they first capped of an 81-yard drive with Gonzalez's second touchdown pass of the game, then capped off their second with a Bryant field goal.
The offensive line tightened up in the quarter, generally giving Ryan the time he needed to find an open receiver.
But in the end that same line would be the scapegoat of the game, first being unable to give Turner the necessary push he needed on 3rd-and-goal before Tyson Clabo allowed Matt Ryan to be pressured on the ensuing 4th-and-goal pass with just under two minutes left to play.
It was a slow start to the second half for the offense, with the first drive resulting in an interception and the second ending with a punt.
But the Falcons got back on track on their third possession with two third-down conversions.
Gonzalez was clutch with three third-down conversions on one drive, the last of which was his 100th career touchdown catch.
But run blocking woes remain as Michael Turner was stuffed from New Orleans' 1-yard line.
Pass protection broke down as well, with Ryan sacked twice in the quarter; not even a holding call on the second was able to keep the rush from getting to Ryan.
Overall the Falcons offense started off strong, scoring on their first two possessions. But one thing holding the squad back is the offensive line, which had trouble in run blocking. It allowed Turner to finish the quarter with just five yards on five carries, the most concerning of which was an inability to convert on a 3rd-and-1.
The defense kept Drew Brees to under 300 passing yards on the day, but were hindered by an inability to even touch Brees, let alone sack him, as well as poor tackling throughout the game.
The defense was fortunate on the first possession of the quarter, as the blitz was unable to reach Brees on third down with Devery Henderson dropping the ball on what would've been a third-down conversion.
But fortune wasn't on the defense's side on the second possession, as William Moore was burned by Jimmy Graham for a 46-yard pass on a drive that resulted in a field goal and a 31-27 Saints lead.
While they forced a Saints punt on their last possession, it was too little too late at that point.
The Falcons tightened up to start the quarter, bottling up the running game before deflecting a Brees pass to force a three and out.
That all changed on their second possession, as the defense reverted back to their theme of poor tackling and no pass rush, allowing the Saints to march downfield for a touchdown and a 28-17 lead.
But the defense bounced back on the third possession, sacking Brees on a 3rd-and-7 to force another punt.
Atlanta's defense was absolutely abused by Graham, who scored two touchdowns in the quarter.
The Falcons did force a punt on the Saints' only other possession of the quarter, but that's more due to a bad pass by Brees than a solid defensive play.
Not helping is a completely inexistent pass rush from the Falcons' front four, giving Brees all day to throw.
The defense was off to a perfect start with Asante Samuel jumping an out pattern to intercept Brees on his very first pass attempt.
It was all downhill from there, as Samuel and the rest of Atlanta's defense then went on to show us how not to tackle on a 56-yard Chris Ivory touchdown run.
Matt Bryant and Matt Bosher did their jobs completely and effectively, but a total of three special teams penalties is nothing to be proud of, especially not on a team that gives up as few per game as the Falcons.
Bryant converted his second field goal of the game, but yet another special teams penalty, this time a holding call on a key late punt return, lowers this grade.
Bosher continues to punt the ball efficiently, but yet again the Falcons are hindered by a special teams penalty, this time an unnecessary roughness called on Antone Smith.
An illegal shift took five yards off a 52-yard Bosher punt, while Dominique Franks was unable to find much running room on the Saints' opening punt of the game.
Matt Bryant was perfect from 37 yards out, while Matt Bosher's first punt resulted in a fair catch.
Coordinators Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan called a solid game overall, putting the team in position to win the game.
But it's the few game-changing plays that ended up costing them the game, such as the decision to give Turner the ball on 3rd-and-1 from the goalline with just under two minutes in the game, despite that play rarely going in the Falcons' favor this season.
The quarter was marked by Smith's cautious decision to kick a field goal on 4th-and-2 from the Saints' two-yard line to narrow New Orleans' lead to 28-27, rather than going for the go-ahead score.
It would come back to haunt the Falcons, as down 31-27 they needed a touchdown on 4th-and-goal Saints' 1-yard-line with under two minutes to go in the game, but were unable to convert.
Nolan has noticeably done his best to slow down the Saints' offense, bringing back the amoeba defense on a few plays.
On offense, meanwhile, Koetter made a great call by having Ryan run a sneak on 3rd-and-1 to keep the drive alive.
Koetter isn't giving up on the run just yet, which should pay dividends later in the game.
However, Nolan has yet to figure out that a linebacker is no match for Graham, nor is a three-man rush on Brees.
Dirk Koetter mixed his play-calling well, starting with basic runs and pass plays before calling a deep play-action pass to Roddy White, who took the ball down to the goalline.
Koetter kept the surprises going when he then called a play-action pass to reserve lineman Mike Johnson, who was wide open in the endzone for a touchdown.
On defense, Mike Nolan is making all the right calls, but is hindered by his players' poor tackling.