Humbling Loss

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First Quarter: **The first quarter of Falcons-Saints didn't disappoint. Both teams scored on their possessions and when the clock struck zero, the Falcons had a 10-7 lead. Atlanta took the opening drive 64 yards and a Matt Bryant 34-yard field goal put the Falcons on the board first. The Saints responded with a quick drive in response and put up a touchdown with a Pierre Thomas rush. Julio Jones completed the second successful drive from the Falcons with a 21-yard touchdown pass to end a drive that traveled 72 yards. When the first quarter closed, the Falcons held a slight advantage in total yards with 136 to New Orleans' 116. Matt Ryan completed 8-of-11 passes on Atlanta's two first-quarter drives.

Second Quarter:The complexion of the game changed a little in the second quarter, aided by a costly penalty from the Falcons. With the Saints driving, Curtis Lofton was flagged for an unnecessary roughness call when he tackled Marques Colston on a pass completion. The extra yardage put New Orleans on Atlanta's 14-yard line and three plays later Colston caught a 8-yard touchdown pass to give the Saints the 14-10 lead. The first punt of the game came on Atlanta's following possession and then the defensive stop the Falcons were looking for came. At Atlanta's 12-yard line, Drew Brees' short pass to Jimmy Graham was broken up and intercepted by . Key on the play was safety William Moore who knocked the ball back into the play along the goal line as it was in the air. It was one of a few plays Moore made for the Falcons defense in the first half. Atlanta began at the 20 in aggressive fashion, lining up with five pass catchers and moved the ball quickly, however another penalty by the Falcons continued to make things difficult. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers' holding call in pass protection nullified a first-down completion and the Falcons couldn't overcome the long third down. The Saints closed the half with their two-minute offense and found the endzone once again on a Jimmy Graham touchdown just before the half ended. Atlanta struggled on defense on third down in the first half. The Saints were eight-for-eight on third downs from varying yardage, including one play from 12 yards after a Saints delay of game penalty.

Third Quarter:The Falcons responded quickly but couldn't keep a lot of momentum in the third quarter. On the Saints' third play of the quarter, a Dunta Robinson interception gave the Atlanta offense an opportunity to close the gap. All the Falcons could manage was a punt after the turnover and New Orleans put another touchdown on the board to take a 28-10 lead. Penalties continued to make life difficult for the Falcons when on a third-down conversion on Atlanta's following possession a Tyson Clabo brought the completion back with added yards. A Bryant 51-yard field goal made the score 28-13. On the kickoff New Orleans' Darren Sproles returned the kick 92 yards before Chris Owens caught up with the speeding returner to prevent the touchdown return. It was the second time Owens has pursued a returner to save a touchdown for Atlanta this season. Inside the redzone, Atlanta stopped the Saints on third down for the first time in the evening, forcing a field goal to give New Orleans a commanding 31-13 lead.

Fourth Quarter:Atlanta appeared to be moving the ball well towards a score to open the quarter but their struggles in the redzone continued. The Falcons were stopped at the 12-yard line and another field goal was all they could come away with. Atlanta's defense had one of their best stands to follow using a near interception from Moore and a third-down stop for a loss to force a punt. On the first play for Atlanta following the stop, Jones fumbled a pass reception that New Orleans returned for a touchdown to stretch the score to 38-16. Atlanta continued to try to chip away, including two fourth-and-1 attempts that were stopped. The Saints would add another touchdown late in the game to make the final score 45-16.

Play of the Game:In the second quarter, with the score 14-10, the Falcons appeared to make a play on defense that appeared at the time to go a long way toward giving the Falcons the needed momentum to keep up with the Saints. On a Brees endzone pass to Jimmy Graham, Curtis Lofton maintained his coverage and knocked the pass free. Moore, also involved in the coverage, tipped the ball from the edge of the endzone back into play and Franks had the awareness to grab the ball from the air and down it to give the Falcons offense a chance. The Falcons weren't able to turn the positive play into more positives as they failed to gain any points when they were forced to punt.

Player of the Game:Matt Bryant. He connected on all three of his field goals. While Atlanta struggled to punch it into the endzone, the kicker made the most of every opportunity, keeping the Falcons in the game, including connecting on a 51-yard attempt.

Turning Point:Although things had been ugly and challenging all night for the Falcons, there was a sense after the Robinson interception and the play of the Falcons defense early in the third quarter that if Atlanta could continue to score, the game was not out of reach. Entering the fourth quarter, the hope remained, but when Jones lost control of a pass and the resulting fumble was returned for a touchdown, the sense that the game had completely turned toward New Orleans was there.

*Stat of the Game: *Third downs. While the Falcons had their struggles to put touchdowns on the scoreboard, the struggles on third down on both sides of the ball damaged most of Atlanta's attempts for much of the game. The Falcons were only able to convert eight of their 17 third-down opportunities and the defense could only stop New Orleans three times on their 13 attempts.

Tweet of the Game:Many fans were understandably disappointed during and following the Falcons' loss in such a one-sided fashion. One fan, @EliotLehrman, found a positive way to look at it, remembering that the Falcons have still clinched a playoff position and could very well see the Saints once again. His tweet spoke of unfinished business: "'We'll see you soon.' Indeed we will. You've won the battle. Get ready for the war.

PLAYOFFS"

Quote of the Day:The Falcons struggled all evening to make things happen when they were presented with game-changing moments. Things were there for them as the game progressed into the second quarter and beyond before it got completely away. In the locker room afterwards, defensive end John Abraham stressed that it was a team loss, a loss that happened because they failed to capitalize: "The word of the day today was opportunities. We left a lot of opportunities out there today on both sides of the ball. On defense we dropped a few balls we should have had. I missed a sack or two. We tried to change that but we came out flat."

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