I’m not even that happy that we got a first round bye. Like I said last week, we’ve been so good on the road that I think the difference the week off and home field throughout if the Cowboys lose in the second round make is exaggerated.
What I am happy about is sweeping the Saints. Little brothers? Maybe not anymore. We’re 4-2 against the Saints in the last three seasons, 5-5 over the last 5, and are up by several games all-time. Moreover, we were a much better team this year. Perhaps they did have our number, but perhaps the natural order has returned.
This game was domination for the longest time. As everyone and their uncle expected, New Orleans’ laughable defense (well, except with respect to Cam Jordan) failed miserably to stop us. More encouragingly, the defense penetrated a strong Saints offensive line to hold their actually great offense to 13 points in three quarters. We seem ready for the playoffs to me.
But then we went into clock-killing prevent defense and conservative offense as Dan Quinn always does in the fourth when we’ve got a huge lead. This allowed a couple scores (but both 2-pointers on them failed). But then a special teams f*ck-up allowed them to recover an onside kick and score again. What’s more, it wasn’t even a fluke. The announcers pointed out that we weren’t watching the ball closely enough.
At this point, the game was 38-32 Falcons. I’m thinking, “if we don’t recover, I do not like our chances of stopping Drew Brees in ‘save the game’ mode.” Honestly, I wouldn’t like the 1985 Bears’ chances of stopping him in that situation. But our return unit learned from its mistakes and got the ball.
We’ll have to wait and see awhile for more evidence on this rivalry. Are 2014 and 2016 fluke sweeps? Is 2015 a sign that we’ll trade beatings? Or are we back to consistently kicking the Saints’ asses like we did for most of the five decades before Brees?
The one thing I’m pretty sure about is that this rivalry will contain a lot of familiar faces. Brees has at least a couple good years left in him, though Carson Palmer might present just a drop of doubt. We probably didn’t beat them bad enough to get Sean Payton fired and anyway, those rumors aren’t nearly as strong as last year. It goes without saying that Dan Quinn, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and other Falcons will be around for a long time to come. So this rivalry is elevated even more by the fact that the casts know each other. RISE UP!!!