NEW ORLEANS – After a back-and-forth first half and virtually no offensive momentum for the Falcons, Deion Jones picked off Saints quarterback Drew Brees on the opening drive of the second half.
Jones returned it to the Saints' 2-yard line giving Atlanta's offense the best chance possible to punch it in the end zone for the first time of the day.
On second-and-1, quarterback Matt Ryan handed the ball off to running back Devonta Freeman, who then fumbled the ball. It was recovered by New Orleans linebacker Manti Te'o at the 4-yard line.
A costly turnover at a time where the Falcons needed points.
This was Freeman's third fumble in two games – something Freeman takes personal.
"I know I fumbled, I shouldn't have … I know I can get better," Freeman said after the game.
But despite the number of fumbles recently, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn doesn't foresee Freeman losing any confidence moving forward.
"He really takes that part of job, his game [seriously]," Quinn said. "Knowing that it's responsible for everybody. From a confidence standpoint, he really knows for every guy in there how much he points in and how hard he goes. We're very connected and committed to him in every way. I don't see any other lingering effects other than the disappointment that he's feeling today and the last couple of games to have that. Pas that, he's a playmaker and we're going to do [everything] we can to get the ball in his hands."
Freeman said the key to not dwelling on the mistakes is all about having a short-term memory.
"Good or bad," Freeman said. "If you score a long touchdown, get prepared for the next play. If it's a bad play, get prepared for the next play. Be prepared to make another play always."
That's exactly what he'll do on Sunday in Atlanta's final regular-season game. The Falcons need Freeman to be at his best and with full confidence against the Panthers. If the Falcons win, they're in the playoffs.
Being the competitor he is, Freeman will go back to work this week in practice and is already looking forward to his next opportunity.
"Situations like this, we just gotta man up [and] look at yourself in the mirror," Freeman said. "I know I can be better with holding the ball. It will just make [me] stronger."