The two guys that make up the last line of defense in Atlanta's secondary had heard some of the talk lately. They started out the season on fire and Pro Bowl campaigns were getting cranked up. Then they fell back to Earth and the turnovers stopped coming so rapidly.
In Thursday's win, the interceptions came like a flurry of Bruce Lee punches. Thomas DeCoud started the party, intercepting Brees on the fifth New Orleans play from scrimmage of the game.
"I had a bead on Drew, he tried to pump fake and move me, but I saw the ball in the air and went and got it," DeCoud said.
The offense couldn't turn that takeaway into points, but they would off DeCoud's running mate. In the third quarter, with a slim 17-13 lead, William Moore picked off Brees and the Falcons turned it into a field goal to extend their lead 20-13.
Moore wasn't finished though. He sealed the win for the Falcons after the two-minute warning, intercepting Brees again, giving the Falcons five picks on the day. It was a play that didn't need points to follow. Moore and the rest of the Falcons secondary showed once again when they face some of the best in the league, they shine the brightest.
"We had a great game plan," Moore said. "All credit to coach Nolan. He's a heck of a defensive coordinator and he showed it tonight. We showed up against great quarterbacks and it's paying dividends down the stretch."
DeCoud, Moore and everyone in the back end found a little extra in their games Thursday as they played on a national stage against a team many wholeheartedly believed were inside the Falcons' heads. They showed in the win, their eleventh of the season, that they control their own psyche, but beating the Saints meant a little extra.
"You can't forget we're 11-1," Moore said. "We know where that one loss came from. It was important that we go out there and show that we can compete. We've been the little brothers to the New Orleans Saints for the past few years. I think it was huge. We had our mindset with a short week from the game last week and a quick turn around, but we came out and balled out."
This season, DeCoud and Moore have combined for eight interceptions and one forced fumble. They've truly been catalysts for the Falcons as the offense took those turnovers and turned them into 30 points this year. Decoud's five interceptions is a career high and is tied for tops in the league among safeties. Moore's four this year are the second most he's had since coming into the league in 2009.
The secondary in Thursday's win, led by the safeties, were able to rise to the occassion and play the kind of tight coverage that is necessary to produce turnovers against a quarterback like Brees, a QB not afraid to telegraph a pass into a tight window. As each turnover came, they grew in importance, culminating with Moore's final one of the night.
"I thought William Moore had an outstanding game," head coach Mike Smith said. "Not only the turnovers but he dislodged a ball on a pass down our sideline that probably would have given a first down inside the 15-yard line. It was a big time play coming over the top on running back Darren Sproles."