Right now, the Falcons (9-6) are the No. 6 seed and would face the No. 3 seeded Saints. The seeds could change if San Francisco is upset by St. Louis or if Green Bay beats Detroit and the Falcons win over Tampa Bay. They could move up to No. 5 and play the winner of the Dallas-New York Giants NFC East showdown game.
The Falcons don’t have to look too far back in history for inspiration. The 2008 Arizona Cardinals were routed 47-7 by the New England Patriots in Week 16, but regrouped in the playoffs and went to the Super Bowl. Along the way, they beat the Falcons in the wild-card round.
The Falcons are hoping for a similar rebound.
“We have to take this and learn that we can’t make these mistakes against great teams,” Moore said. “Drew proved himself to be the elite quarterback in the NFL for right now. We have to capitalize on the mistakes we made.”
Moore had a strong game with six tackles and four passes defensed. He felt he should have had a couple of interceptions. He created one on a tipped pass to cornerback Dominique Franks.
“I was going out of bounds,” Moore said. “I saw more white than black. We needed the play, so I tipped it up.”
Moore doesn’t think the Falcons were complacent against the Saints because they already had a playoff berth secured before kickoff.
“That never came up,” Moore said. “Unfortunately, we lost at a time like this, and that comes up, but that doesn’t go on in this locker room.”
The Falcons tried to downplay the Saints’ running up the score late to get Brees the record. But you can bet that it will come up if the two teams meet again in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
Although they said nice things about Brees after the game, you could see the disgust in the coaches’ faces as the Saints were marching in for the late score.
Falcons coach Mike Smith was asked twice about the Saints running up the score, but he didn’t pass judgment on Saints coach Sean Payton’s tactics.
Up 38-16 with 5:08 to play, the Saints ran six plays and threw five passes, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Darren Sproles to break the record. A Mardi Gras-style celebration ensued.
“I’m not going to comment on that in terms of running up the score,” Smith said. “It’s our job to go out there and stop them. It doesn’t matter if they are running the ball or throwing the ball. The job of our defense is to go out and stop them.”
Safety Thomas DeCoud was not offended by the Saints’ ploy.
“They were down there,” DeCoud said. “They had some good field position and were just making plays. I’m not going to take it too hard like that. It was just part of the football game.”
Before getting a rematch and another chance to stop Brees, the Falcons need to fix their defense, which couldn’t stop the run, rush the passer or intercept enough passes. The Saints converted on 10 of 13 third-down situations, and that helped them sustain four touchdown drives of 80 yards or more.
“I hope it’s an aberration in terms of the way that we’ve been playing defense,” Smith said. “It was just not the type of effort that you want to have when so much was on the line in terms of what the outcome could have meant to our football team.”