The Atlanta Falcons fell to the New Orleans Saints 31-27 on Sunday. While certain Falcons players were very vocal in the week leading up to the game, it was the New Orleans Saints who did their talking on the field. Despite an almost immediate 10-point hole, the Saints would control the game for the next three quarters.
The Atlanta Falcons would launch a fourth-quarter comeback that fell short, but was long on irony.
Roddy White Misses Mark
Atlanta's star wide receiver, Roddy White, made headlines with his words leading up to the rivalry game with the Saints. First, White claimed the Falcons had the "pedigree" to go 16-0. This struck some as odd as a pitcher claiming he had the pedigree for a no-hitter in the fourth inning.
Superstitions aside, White was not content to leave it there. Instead, he put New Orleans on blast. A candid White dished on everything from his hate of the city of New Orleans to acknowledging a desire to dash the Saints' playoff hopes.
Sunday, White put up some incredible numbers (seven catches, 114 yards), but fell short when his team needed him most. With 24 seconds left in the game, Matt Ryan launched a perfectly placed bomb deep down the sideline. Roddy White had managed to get behind the Saints secondary, but inexplicably slowed down to watch Ryan get the pass off. Once the potentially game-winning pass was in the air, White chose to back-pedal instead of turning to the ball. White let the ball sail over his head and hit harmlessly inside the five-yard line.
Gonzalez' Quest For Respect
TE Tony Gonzalez started clamoring for more respect from the media well before the nail-biter in New Orleans. Gonzalez told USA Today, "Is the national media making a big deal about us like they would if it was Philly, Green Bay or New England? No, they're not."
Gonzalez played an incredible game for the most part. He had 11 receptions for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He was a driving force in the Atlanta Falcons' inspired fourth-quarter comeback until the final play. With 00:16 left on the clock, Gonzalez made a perfect cut to get open on a fourth-down pass. Gonzalez was perfectly angled to get out of bounds and make the first down. But an odd, short-armed effort let the ball and the Falcons' hopes get away.
Back To Basics
Atlanta coach Mike Smith has spent five years trying to keep players focused and humble. Smith has acknowledged repeatedly that he is trying to keep the team on a week-to-week schedule. Even while at 6-0, Smith took time to practice what he called, “remedial, 8th-grade football."
Now that the Atlanta Falcons no longer have to worry about being undefeated, they can get back to being a team. If Mike Smith can use this loss as a teaching tool, a newly focused Falcons squad may rise to greater heights.
But if his players continue to listen for the forthcoming "I told you so," then the last second glitches may continue to haunt the now defeated Falcons.