While this game was a must-win for the New Orleans Saints in terms of their playoff chances, the Atlanta Falcons viewed this as a must-win as well.
The Falcons had not beat the Saints at home since 2008 and had already lost to the Saints three weeks prior to this game. If the Falcons were going to prove to the rest of the league that they were a team to be feared, they had to take care of business against their biggest rival.
The Falcons did indeed take care of business Thursday night with a 23-13 victory over Drew Brees and company.
The win was made extra special for a number of reasons. The biggest reason might have been the ending of Drew Brees' historic touchdown streak, halting it at 54 games. Brees earned the record after passing Johnny Unitas's record earlier in the season. It was the first time since October of 2009 that Brees did not throw a touchdown in a game.
Not only did the Falcons hold Brees without a touchdown pass, they also managed to intercept Drew Brees five times. Three of those interceptions came in the second half of the game while the Saints were attempting to comeback from an early 17-0 deficit that they put themselves into in the first half. Brees had been intercepted four times twice in his career; however, this was the first time he had been picked off five times in one game. Brees now leads the league in interceptions with 16.
Another special anecdote for the Falcons after this victory has got to be that they have essentially eliminated the Saints from playoff contention with their loss. The Saints now own a record of 5-7. While this does not mathematically eliminate them from the playoffs, they are all but finished due to having a handful of teams ahead of them for the final wild-card spot.
While the Falcons may or may not have succeeded in striking fear into their potential playoff opponents on Thursday night, they did succeed in exorcising some New Orleans demons that have haunted them for years.
In doing so, they may have just turned this rivalry into more of a two-sided affair.