Predictably, this Monday Night Football game was a tribute to the New Orleans Saints a decade after the reopening of the Superdome. Actually, last year’s Thursday Night Football game had more or less been as well, despite there being no anniversary as such. They didn’t go too far this time. Whereas the last year’s tribute game began with a narration about how great New Orleans was and that you had to respect the capital of the state in which Huey Long and David Duke became powerful politicians even if, “God forbid,” you cheer for the Falcons. In other words, we were made out to be bad guys.
To be fair, it hasn’t been easy for Saints fans to be humble, at least as far as this rivalry goes. they have been consistently beating us for ten years. So even though we’ve been playing better than them so far this season, I feared that it wouldn’t matter. After all, we had a better record than them last year when we missed the playoffs on the two games we lost to them. Plus, they’d especially elevate their play on this historic occasion. Not to mention that they were desperate for a win. Go 0-3 and you’re pretty much dead.
In particular, would the Saints celebrate by repeating Steve Gleason’s blocked punt for a touchdown? Some on Twitter were putting up the #neverpunt hashtag in anticipation. It didn’t happen. Instead, De’Vante Harris muffed an attempt to return a punt to keep Atlanta on offense and LaRoy Reynolds recovered it at New Orleans’ 11. How’s that for irony?
Tied 7-7, the rest of the first half was all Falcons, outscoring the Saints 21-10, though they did get an amazing 57-yard field goal to enter Halftime. Second half consisted of score trades. We got up 35-17 on a score early in the third quarter. They did fight back, but couldn’t stop us from scoring more. In fact, their offense wasn’t perfect as Drew Brees’ no pick streak was broken by a defensive touchdown.
We could have blown them out because a huge run by Devonta Freeman took us in range of another easy touchdown near the end. Instead, we just took a knee.
How did we get so much offense going? Believe it or not, Matt Ryan only had 240 passing yards. However…
Good offensive line play too. Not only were holes opened up for Freeman and Coleman, Cameron Jordan was held in check. A year after getting 4 sacks in two games on Matt Ryan, pressure was largely prevented.
Yeah, this offense is on fire! But then again, we have yet to hold a team under 28 points. Part of it may be the rookies at linebacker and strong safety, but our pass rush looks no better than last year. If this turns out to not merely be a work in progress, defensive line has to be the top priority in the offseason.
I’m not ready to make predictions about this season yet, but it’s encouraging to embarrass the Saints in the setting in which you know they gave us everything they had it. No, they’re not good or even average, but if the Dolphins can beat the Patriots repeatedly at home and the Rams can beat the Seahawks three times in a row, then this is a great victory! RISE UP!!!