The Falcons snapped their six-game losing streak when they played four quarters of quality football to upset the Saints, who were 13.5-point favorites, on Sunday in New Orleans.
The key was the offense cobbling together four scoring drives of 10 plays or more that wiped 24:49 combined off the clock.
The well-rested defense mounted a pass rush, as they finished with six sacks and 11 quarterback hits.
For the second time this season, it was not like watching a football horror movie while doing the film review.
The Falcons improved to 2-7 with the victory over their rivals.
FILM REVIEW OF THE SACK PATROL
Here’s a review of the Falcons’ six sacks against the Saints:
Sack 1: On third-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 4:57 left in the first quarter, linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, coming from the right end of the defense, beat a cut-block attempt Saints fullback Zach Line and leveled quarterback Drew Brees as he tried to slid up in the pocket.
Sack 2. On third-and-4 from the Saints’ 42 with 3:41 left in the second quarter, Grady Jarrett and Adrian Clayborn worked a twist, with Jarrett going outside and Clayborn coming around inside. He powered his way to Brees for the second sack.
Sack 3. On second-and-10 from the Falcons’ 10 with 7:14 left in the third quarter, Jarrett beat Saints guard Will Clapp. Jarrett and Vic Beasley broke free and hit Brees for a split sack.
Sack 4. On third-and-14 from the Saints’ 42 with 13:28 left in the fourth quarter, the Falcons rushed only three, with Jarrett in the middle. He worked his way free around to his left and got past guard Larry Warford for the sack.
Sack 5. On first-and-10 from the Saints’ 26 with 6:56 in the fourth quarter, Jarrett beat Clapp, who was playing for Andrus Peat, for another sack.
Sack 6. On fourth-and-5 from the Saints’ 21 with 5:31 left in the fourth quarter, Takk McKinley and Beasley work a stunt. McKinley powered up the field, and Beasley came free and got the sack. He owes McKinley a beer for doing the heavy lifting on this play.
On to the grades:
Run offense: Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter opened the game with a jet sweep to wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who picked up 19 yards. After a couple of runs by Devonta Freeman, third-string running back Kenjon Barner came in at quarterback, took a direct snap and ran for 12 yards. The Falcons rushed for a season-high 143 yards on 34 carries. Brian Hill took over after Freeman left the game with an foot injury. Hill finished with 61 yards rushing on 20 carries. Hill has been on an uphill climb since re-joining the team that drafted him last season. Because the Saints were so stout in the middle, the Falcons worked hard to hit some perimeter runs. Koetter said that the wide receivers had their best blocking game of the season with the tone being set by Julio Jones. Grade: B
Pass offense: Matt Ryan completed 20 of 35 passes for 182 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He finished with a passer rating of 78.5. It was his first game back since halting a streak of 163 starts (154 regular season, nine playoffs). The line held the Saints to one sack and five quarterback hits. Julio Jones caught three of 9 targets for 79 yards. Hill and tight end Austin Hooper had touchdown receptions. Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage and Hooper all had five targets. Grade: B
Run defense: Linebacker Foye Oluokun led the way with eight tackles. The Falcons held the Saints to 52 yards rushing on 11 carries. Saints running back Alvin Kamara was held to 24 yards rushing on four carries. Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell had six tackles and middle linebacker Deion Jones had five tackles. Grade: A-plus
Pass defense: Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas broke loose for 13 catches for 152 yards. His longest reception was for 18 yards as the Falcons tried to keep the explosive plays down to a minimum. The secondary had eight pass breakups, but no interceptions. On defense, the Falcons, who moved assistant coach Raheem Morris over to help coach the defensive backs, didn’t have any blown coverages, and free safety Damontae Kazee came in nickel packages and added a physical presence.
“We all just fought together,” free safety Ricardo Allen said. “Everybody got out there and every drive we just told each other, just do your 1/11th. The plays are going to come to you.” Kendall Sheffield started at left cornerback, but moved inside while Blidi Wreh-Wilson came in to play outside in the nickel. Kazee and Wreh-Wilson came in for the nickel while safety Kemal Ishmael and Oluokun left the base defensive package. “Just make sure that we communicated and make sure that we are on the same page,” Wreh-Wilson said. “Get the call in and get it around. We had 11 guys playing as one, when you play as one you can accomplish things.” The Saints’ longest pass-play was a 22-yard gain by tight end Jared Cook. “Coming off the bye week, it was something that we stressed,” Wreh-Wilson said. Grade: A
Special teams: Kicker Younghoe Koo made all four of his field-goal attempts in his debut with the Falcons. He made field goals of 37, 36, 48 and 30 yards. New punter Ryan Allen had two punts for a net average of 29 yards. He placed one down inside the 20. Barner had a crafty 21-yard punt return. “We had changed both specialists on the kicking side and the punting side,” Quinn said. “That isn’t always easy to do in the middle of the year.” Grade: B
Coaching: It was a great decision by Quinn to take the ball after winning the coin toss. The offense backed it up with a strong opening drive that led to a field goal and helped to set the tone for the day. The Falcons simplified some things on defense, tackled well and finally got the pass-rush rolling. The Falcons played a pretty clean game with just seven penalties for 48 yards. Four the penalties were false starts from the crowd noise. Grade: A.
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