There weren’t too many things that went right for the New Orleans Saints in the Georgia Dome Thursday night. And just about everything that could have gone wrong did.
The Saints can take some solace in the fact that as poorly as they played, they only lost to the 11-1 Atlanta Falcons 23-13, but the fact that the team lost has repercussions far beyond any one game.
The Saints started the game on defense, and just like many teams have this season, Atlanta came out and punched them in the face with a heavy dose of Michael Turner running the football. Turner carried the ball five times in the first quarter for 67 yards and a touchdown.
And then the Falcons piled on the points.
A second-quarter touchdown and a field goal put the Falcons up 17-0 before New Orleans had stepped into Atlanta’s red zone.
Drew Brees and the Saints started moving the ball with just under nine minutes to play in the half, and New Orleans got on the board with 5:36 to play before the half, cutting the lead to 10 points.
New Orleans had an opportunity late to cut the lead to seven, or even three, before halftime, but poor clock management was an Achilles' heel, and the Saints’ final drive at the half stalled at the Falcons’ 3-yard line without the team getting any points.
“Honestly I thought we had more time that we did,” said Brees on their failure to score before the half. “Last time I looked at the clock I saw 17 seconds and next thing you know I thought we had time to throw one underneath and clock it. But when the clock was down to 0:07 when I looked back up and that wasn’t enough time to get the strike.”
It’s arguable as to whether that mishap was Brees’ worst mistake of the game. With five interceptions to his stat sheet, it may be easier just to say the whole game was a mishap.
The Saints had 13 drives on Thursday. Five ended with an interception (a sixth was overturned because of an Atlanta offsides penalty), one with clock mismanagement, four with punts and three with a Saints score—two field goals and a touchdown run.
Brees’ 54-game streak of throwing a touchdown pass in a game came to an end.
So did the Saints’ playoff hopes.
The loss moves New Orleans to 5-7 on the season with four games left to play. The best outcome New Orleans could hope for is 9-7. With the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers still on the schedule, a 4-0 run seems unlikely.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.