How many times were we subject to a fun game getting blown to shreds by a pathetic final drive showing by the Saints' defense last year? Today was the exact opposite, as the Saints withstood four plays inside their own 10 inside two minutes to earn the team a 23-17 win. It should have never gotten to that point, honestly, as the Saints clearly outplayed the Falcons leading up to that final drive. Unfortunately, too many field goals and not enough touchdowns kept the game within striking distance, and the Falcons came very close to sneaking one out. In fact, the play before the fourth down interception was a dropped ball at the goal line by Steven Jackson that should've given his team a touchdown. The health and sanity of the 70,000+ fans in the stadium, plus millions watching, stood in the balance. It was an exciting end but a very deserved result. The Saints 2013 version showed they can still make big plays on offense, but also showed that their defense won't be a joke this year. The Saints claim the lead in the NFC South with this win, thanks to losses by the Bucs and Panthers too. Below are my bullet thoughts on the game:
- The Saints quickly went down 10-0, in part thanks to a decision to go for it on 4th and inches from the 50 where Mark Ingram was completely stuffed. Hard to blame Ingram on that play, it was going nowhere. I had less problems with the decision to go for it as I did with the play call. Why not quarterback sneak it there? The Saints only needed two inches.
- Mark Ingram, overall, was horrible. He bounces way too many runs outside with lackluster speed.
- Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas got a lot of reps, and both were pretty good but not amazing. Sproles did make a critical reception down the sideline for a big play.
- Kenny Stills seemed to be a factor, moreso than Lance Moore in this game. He had a great game getting behind the Falcons' defense and I think it will serve the Saints well down the road in forcing other defenses to respect his speed. Too bad Drew Brees underthrew him on a couple plays.
- The Saints averaged a miserable 2.7 yards per carry, but their play ratio was 35 passes to 29 rushes. Good balance, but they have to do a much better job running the football.
- Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham might not have had their best games, but good lord their touchdown plays were both sick.
- Garrett Hartley was perfect on three field goals, including a massive 48 yarder. The Saints needed every single one of them.
- Kenny Vaccaro has a horrible personal foul on Matt Ryan and I don't even care. That's the kind of remember me hits that make your opponents scared. Vaccaro later broke up the pass that would lead to the game winning interception.
- Injuries are really starting to mount on defense. Brodrick Bunkley, Tyrunn Walker and Patrick Robinson all left the game and never came back. Keenan Lewis was banged up too, but returned.
- The offensive line struggled with a poor performance overall. Brees saw some pressure and the Saints had 2.7 yards per carry on the ground. They'll need to improve greatly for the Saints to have a good season.
- Parys Haralson with a sack, yes please.
- The dome was insanely loud, particularly at the end of the game. Crazy finish and an amazing atmosphere. I wish every Saint fan under the sun could've experienced it. If you weren't there in person, I know you were in spirit.
That's all I got. What a way to start the season with a FANTASTIC win! Looking forward to the player grade.