The underdog Atlanta Falcons pushed the New Orleans Saints for four quarters of hard-fought football. However, it was the Saints who made the big plays when they mattered and who came out on top on Thursday night.
Final Score: New Orleans 17, Atlanta 13
|Position Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Grade|
vs. Saints Week 12
Game Analysis for Atlanta
Pass Offense: Quarterback Matt Ryan dealt with a clean pocket for the majority of the first half, but found himself under constant pressure in the second.
Ryan was able to counter by spreading the football around (nine different players registered a catch). However, he was sacked a season-high five times and rarely had the time to attack deep downfield.
He finished the game 30-of-39 for 297 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Run Offense: Running back Steven Jackson ran as strong and as effectively as he has all season, which helped bring balance to the Falcons offense.
Jackson led the team with 63 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith added 18 yards on four combined carries.
Pass Defense: Atlanta was able to limit Saints quarterback Drew Brees with pressure at the line of scrimmage and with aggressive coverage on the back end of the defense.
Unfortunately, Brees made the most of what the Falcons game him, consistently finding tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Pierre Thomas as his outlets.
Brees finished 22-of-33 for 278 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Run Defense: While the Falcons did a respectable job against the Saints rushing attack early in the contest, the New Orleans ground game seemed to grow stronger as the game progressed.
Thomas led New Orleans with 73 yards on just 10 carries, while Mark Ingram chipped in with 32 yards on nine attempts.
Special Teams: It was an average and certainly an unspectacular night for the Falcons' special teams unit.
Matt Bosher averaged a respectable 45.3 yards per punt, while kicker Matt Bryant connected on two of his three field-goal attempts. Unfortunately, his miss came with just over two minutes remaining in the game and with the Falcons down by four points.
Coaching: Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter deserves credit for sticking with the run, despite being behind on the scoreboard for the majority of the game. Atlanta has lacked balance on offense for much of the season, but did not in this game.
Blame for the loss likely rests with Mike Nolan’s unit, which was consistently beaten by passes to the Saints tight ends and running backs.
First-Half Analysis for Atlanta
Pass Offense: Despite facing consistent pressure and a variety of defensive looks, quarterback Matt Ryan played the majority of the half with poise and confidence.
Ryan was helped immensely by rookie wideout Darius Johnson, who hauled in five passes for 65 yards in the first two quarters.
In all, Ryan completed 14 of 19 pass attempts for 147 yards with no touchdowns and no turnovers.
Run Offense: Running back Steven Jackson set the tone early with 24 yards and a touchdown on Atlanta’s first possession.
Unlike in some recent games, the Falcons stuck with the rush throughout the half. Jackson ran as hard as he has all season, gaining 37 yards and a score on nine carries. Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith chipped in with 18 yards on four combined carries.
Pass Defense: The Falcons pressured Saints quarterback Drew Brees early and often in the first half, which forced a couple of off throws from the perennial Pro Bowler.
As is often the case, however, the majority of Brees’ passes were efficient and on target. He finished the half 14-of-19 for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
Run Defense: The New Orleans rushing attack was stuffed early by a motivated Falcons defense. However, the Saints found a way to gain yards on the ground as the half wore on.
Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas combined for 50 yards on nine carries and managed to produce a couple of big runs.
Special Teams: There were few special teams plays from either team in the first half, with only three total punts.
Kicker Matt Bryant did connect on a pair of field goals, which earns the Falcons' special teams unit a positive grade.
Coaching: Mike Smith and his staff crafted an excellent game plan for this contest and called a fairly solid first half.
Dirk Koetter’s offense showed a nice balance of run and pass, which helped the Falcons score on their first three possessions.
Mike Nolan’s defense, meanwhile, brought frequent pressure on Brees and played aggressively against the run. Unfortunately, Nolan’s play-calling yielded only mixed results.