If anything, the Saints proved that they can still compete with the NFL elite. To me, It makes me even more frustrated that the start of the season was so bad. After that 0-4 start, the Saints are 4-1, and arguably the hottest team in the NFL. The question becomes, is it a little bit too late? The Saints can afford maybe one more loss the rest of the season if they want to make the postseason. They have a very hard schedule going forward including the Giants, Niners, and this Falcons team once again in Atlanta. A tough task indeed, but New Orleans is running on all cylinders now.
This was a close game, but one that the Saints were leading a lot of the way. They took 21-17 lead late in the first half on a 14 yard strike to Jimmy Graham. They allowed Atlanta to come close, but never let up the lead after that point. In the end, New Orleans came away with a 31-27 win. It was a shootout, just as anyone should have predicted, but one that New Orleans just had enough to come out ahead. A key takeaway from this one was that New Orleans went back to the run. After last weeks win where they were successful on the run for the first time all year, they had similar success against the Falcons today. Chris Ivory led the attack with 72 yards on just 7 carries. He had a sensational run of 56 yards for a score that kicked off the Saints scoring. That run will likely be seen on highlight reels all year. Ingram added 67 yards, and overall the Saints were just shy of 150 on the ground.
Drew Brees had quite a game as well, as expected. He threw for nearly 300 yards, with 3 scores to go along with that. He threw one INT, but that was the only critique in an excellent game. It was a day for the tight ends for both teams. Jimmy Graham had 146 and two touchdowns for the Saints. Tony Gonzalez had 122 yards and two touchdowns himself, including the 100th of his career. Gonzalez had this day mainly because Julio Jones left for two quarters with an injury. He picked up the slack in a big way, but at the end of the day it wasn’t enough. Ryan actually threw for a career high 411 yards in this game, with 3 touchdowns as well. He had a huge game, but the running attack was not there at all. Michael Turner had just 15 yards on 13 carries, which hurt in short yardage situations. Give credit to the Saints defense to make the Falcons one dimensional.
Next week they travel to Oakland to face the sputtering Raiders. Oakland was just demolished by the Ravens who put up 55 points against them. Drew Brees could be in for a huge game. Oakland’s offense has no running game with McFadden and Goodson both out with high ankle sprains. That has forced Carson Palmer to throw a lot in recent games, but not without mistakes. New Orleans needs to win this game, with a murderous stretch after that.