The Falcons were rude guests for the 10th anniversary party for the re-opening of the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.
Just downright nasty and rude as they looked nearly unstoppable on offense, got two real sacks and scored on defense.
When the thrashing was over, the Falcons had steamrolled the rival New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night before a dejected crowd of 73,003.
The Falcons used dynamic performances from running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to dismantle the Saints.
“Offensively, I thought they really attacked it tonight,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “It was more true with the running backs. I think they totalled somewhere near 300 yards and had four touchdowns between them.”
With the offensive line creating space, the Falcons didn’t need to lean of All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones much. He didn’t catch a pass until pass the midway point of the third quarter.
The defense pitched in with a 90-yard interception return by New Orleans native Deion Jones for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“I thought it was a great moment for Deion Jones,” Quinn said. “Right here back at home and getting a chance to take it into the end zone.”
With the victory, the Falcons improved to 2-1, and in first place in the NFC South, while the Saints dropped to 0-3.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Running back tandem is dynamite. Freeman and Coleman, playing in a nearly 50-50 split, were a devastating combination.
Coleman rushed for three touchdowns and Freeman scored on a receiving touchdown to power the Falcons to a 28-17 halftime lead.
“When you are down there you just have a nose for the end zone,” Coleman said. “You can smell it.”
With the scored tied at 14, Freeman broke loose for a 36-yard run. Left tackle Jake Matthews had a nice block and fullback Patrick DiMarco buried Saints linebacker Jim Laurinaitis to spring Freeman.
The two backs combined for 296 total yards and four touchdowns.
Freeman rushed 12 times for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman rushed 12 times for 42 yards and caught three passes for 47 yards.
“Those guys do a heck of a job by creating lanes and giving us an opportunity,” Freeman said of his offensive line.
Best running back tandem in the league?
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Coleman said.
2. Reynolds jumped on muffed punt. Falcons caught a big break after being stopped and forced to punt on their first possession.
Saints defensive back De’Vante Harris ran into returner Tommylee Lewis and the ball hit Harris. Falcons linebacker LaRoy Reynolds pounced on the live ball to put the offense back in business at the 11-yard line.
Three plays later, Coleman scored on a 2-yard touchdown run.
“The (special teams) were the ones who really set it off by forcing the fumble right after they went down to score,” Quinn said.
3. Calculated gambles. Quinn’s confidence in the offense is growing. He elected to go for it on two fourth-down plays. The unit converted both times.
On fourth-and-1 from New Orleans’ 40 on their opening of the drive of the second half, quarterback Matt Ryan connected with Coleman for a 34-yard gain. On the next play, Coleman went around left end for his third touchdown of the game.
Earlier, with the score tied at 7, the Falcons went for a fourth-and-1 from New Orleans’ 33. Coleman gained a yard around right end. Saints safety Roman Harper was called for a questionable horse-collar tackle to move the ball to the Saints’ 17.
After a 4-yard pass to wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, Ryan tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Freeman.
“I thought our offensive line did a good job of establishing the line of scrimmage in both the run game and the pass game,” Ryan said. “I thought we handled the environment. This is a tough place to play. It’s loud. I thought we did a good job with it.”
4. Jones hurts Saints. Deion Jones, a native of New Orleans, paid tribute to the 10th anniversary of the effects from Hurricane Katrina, by wearing some special commemorative cleats.
The symbols on his cleats denote how the search and rescue teams marked area houses following the disaster. His grandmother was one of the many who made into the Superdome for refuge.
“It was electric,” Jones said of his touchdown run. “It was a dream come true. It was a great play formy team.”
5. Show of unity. After the national anthem was played, the Falcons and the Saints held hands in a circle in a powerful display of unity.
Saints coach Sean Payton reached out to Falcons coach Dan Quinn with the idea, according to ESPN.
It was deemed a great way to join the national protest against racial injustice and police brutality in America while still respecting the anthem.
Both teams held a reflective period for about one minute.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.