Dating back to Sept. 26, 2006, the Falcons had lost 11 of 13 games to the Saints. Since head coach Mike Smith took over in Atlanta, the Falcons were 2-7 prior to Thursday’s win. They’d also lost the last four games in a row to their NFC South nemeses.
Not only does this victory inch the Falcons back into the rivalry just a bit, but hosting and beating a team that had handily beaten them down so frequently goes a long way toward showing that Atlanta can end negative streaks.
What other negative streak is looming large over the franchise?
Over the last four years, Atlanta has qualified for the playoffs three times. In each of those trips to the postseason, the Falcons have been bounced unceremoniously without winning a game.
Smith is 0-3 in the playoffs as the head coach of the Falcons.
Quarterback Matt Ryan is 0-3 in the playoffs in his career.
There is a cloud hanging over this franchise—and it’s been here all season—suggesting that Smith and Ryan can’t lead the Falcons to a playoff win. Thursday’s victory over the team that has brutalized the Falcons since 2006 gives hope that Atlanta might be able to end its playoff drought too.
The second feat—and this is much more of a moral victory than anything else—is that the Falcons put an end to Drew Brees’ 54-game streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
The streak started on Oct. 18, 2009 and not only spanned all the way until its demise Thursday, but earlier in 2012, Brees passed Johnny Unitas' longstanding record of 47 consecutive games.
For Atlanta to be the team to end the streak, even though the players and coaching staff after the game claimed not to know about it, will go a long way toward building momentum in this rivalry.
The five interceptions won’t hurt, either.
Cornerback Dunta Robinson talked about physical play in the secondary leading to success in the turnover battle.
“We knew if we could get up in these receivers’ faces that we had a chance to dominate the football game,” said Robinson. “Five interceptions against one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, that’s an amazing feeling.”
That amazing feeling will stick with Falcons this year, possibly in the playoffs, and beyond when Atlanta and New Orleans rekindle this rivalry.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.