Rewind: Falcons conceded title, record

The game that was

The Saints clinched the NFC South title with their 45-16 victory over the Falcons. The game will be remembered for New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees breaking Dan Marino’s single-season passing yardage mark.

What we learned

1. Fifty-two is not the magic number. The Falcons started out controlling the clock and running the ball. In the first quarter, they held a 10:01 to 4:59 advantage in time of possession. As the game started to slip away, the Falcons forsook their run attack. Quarterback Matt Ryan attempted 52 passes, the same number that he attempted Nov. 13 against the Saints at the Georgia Dome. Michael Turner had eight carries in the first half and three in the second. The formula for beating the Saints is to run in order to burn up the clock and score touchdowns. The Falcons didn't run or score touchdowns. They found themselves in a shootout they couldn't win.

2. The run defense is leaking oil. The Falcons have been stingy against the run all season, but gave up a season-high 164 yards rushing on just 23 carries (7.1 per carry). The previous high this season was 163 yards by Houston. The Falcons had a string of four games where they did not give up more than 100 yards rushing — against Indianapolis, New Orleans, Tennessee and Minnesota. Over the past four games they have given up 162, 157, 116 and 164 yards. Safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud combined for 16 tackles.

3. Pass defense is lacking a rush. The defensive line had a rough game. Not only did they get shoved around in the run game, they also didn't mount much of a pass rush. Defensive tackle Vance Walker did get a sack and a quarterback hit. Defensive end Kroy Biermann got a quarterback hit. Former NFL defensive lineman Tim Ryan said on the 'Movin' The Chains' show on NFL Sirius XM radio that he studied Ray Edwards in the game and that he looked to be 10 to 15 pounds overweight and didn't appear very quick. The coverage was good and would have been better with a stronger rush. The defensive backs knocked down 10 passes and intercepted two. "I had a few pass breakups that should have been interceptions," Moore said. "They are a great team. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to run back into them. It was just their night."

Injury report

No injuries were announced by the team. Cornerback Brent Grimes returned from knee surgery and had a strong game. “We need to have all the healthy guys we can out there on the field for the rest of the season,” coach Mike Smith said. “But I thought for Brent’s first game back that he showed up and made some plays.” Linebacker Stephen Nicholas (toe), cornerback Kelvin Hayden (dislocated toe) and wide receiver Kerry Meier (groin) were inactive because of injury.

The numbers game


Brees passed for 307 yards to break Marino’s single-season passing yardage record of 5,084 that was set in 1984.


Saints coach Sean Payton’s record against the Falcons.


Ryan threw for a season-high 373 yards. His previous high this season was 351 yards against the Saints on Nov. 13.


Turner’s rushing total on 11 carries.


Wide receivers Roddy White (127) and Julio Jones (128) combined yardage total.

Sound bite

“I hope Mike Smith knows that we weren’t trying to run the score up or anything.”

-- Brees, on the Saints running the score up in order for him to break Marino’s record.

Loose ends

Cornerback Dominique Franks’ interception was the second of his career. He also had two passes defensed. ... Turner has not rushed for more than 76 yards over the past five games and has averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. ... Backup quarterback Chris Redman was 6-of-9 for 61 yards and had a passer rating of 85.9.

What’s next

The Falcons (9-6) will face the reeling Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11) at 4:15 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Detroit plays Green Bay at 1 p.m., so the Falcons will know their playoff status as a No. 5 or No. 6 seed before taking the field. Tampa Bay won the previous matchup this season, 16-13 on Sept. 25.