NEW ORLEANS – The Falcons' first drive in their 31-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints (10-1) stalled due to a Matt Ryan fumble at the 3-yard line, and that proved an omen of things to come on Thursday night.
The Falcons (4-7) had some opportunities to get the ball in the end zone but three fumbles just near the goal line ended any threat Atlanta's offense managed to present to New Orleans' defense. The loss was the third-straight for Atlanta, which has slipped down the NFC standings during that time.
Here are some initial takeaways from the loss:
Falcons lose turnover battle
It's difficult enough to defend the Saints' offense without giving them extra possessions, and that job becomes much harder when turnovers come into play. The Falcons turned the ball over four times on Thursday night, which led to an additional seven points for the Saints. More crucially, however, three of the turnovers came just near the goal line, preventing the Falcons from adding any points to the board.
Winning the turnover battle is something Dan Quinn always wants his team to do, but they did not accomplish that mission in New Orleans.
Damontae Kazee gets sixth interception
Kazee snagged his league-leading sixth interception of the season off of Drew Brees, who had thrown just one interception this season coming into the game. The Falcons have forced nine turnovers this season and Kazee, who is in his second NFL season, has accounted for six of them.
A ballhawk in college, Kazee has continued to show a propensity for creating turnovers this season for the Falcons.
Calvin Ridley ties rookie touchdown record
Ridley had a breakout performance the first time these two teams met, catching three touchdown passes in Week 3, and he added another touchdown against the Saints on Thursday. In the third quarter, Ridley caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan that cut the Saints' lead to 14 points.
The touchdown was Ridley's eighth of the season, which is the most among rookie wide receivers in the NFL this season. He also tied the Falcons' franchise record for touchdown catches by a rookie receiver, which was set by Julio Jones in 2011.
Ridley also made a nice play leading up to his touchdown catch, snagging a pass from Ryan and gaining 50 yards to set the Falcons up near the goal line.
Falcons' run game bottled up
Atlanta couldn't get much of anything going on the ground against New Orleans. The Falcons gained just 26 yards on 16 carries Thursday night, an average of 1.6 yards per carry. There didn't appear to be much room for the Falcons' running backs, as the Saints generated a strong push at the line of scrimmage for much of the night. The inability to run the ball was apparent on several third downs and played a role in the Falcons converting just 33 percent of their third downs.
Conversely, the Saints were very successful running the ball. New Orleans finished the game with 150 yards on 31 carries, an average of 4.8 yards per carry.
The Falcons face the Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana this Thanksgiving. Get your inside look here.