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Inside Tori's Notebook: How the Falcons best carried the momentum in win vs. Saints

Plus a look inside the Wednesday practice the Falcons couldn't stop talking about after the game. 

Inside Tori's Notebook is a weekly series where Tori McElhaney re-opens her game notebook to look back at her notes, questions and observations from the Falcons most recent game. Tori breaks down her thoughts and gives her analysis on what happened and why it's notable.


EN ROUTE TO TARGET -- Well, the first notebook of the 2023 season has officially kicked the bucket. She held strong but inevitably gave up the fight in the fourth quarter of the Falcons' 24-15 win over the Saints at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.

The least the Falcons could do for her after a month's worth of losses was give her a win on her final page. What's most interesting is that they gave her something she hadn't seen this year: A truly decisive win, one that didn't come down to the final minute of the game.

For the first time in what feels like the entire season, the Falcons not only found the momentum of a game but kept it until the end.

Was it perfect from start to finish? No. The offense still has a turnover problem and the defense is still giving up one too many explosive plays. However, they counteracted those things on Sunday with increased production elsewhere. The offense's run game was as sound as its been all year long. The defense kept the Saints out of the end zone even though New Orleans found itself in the red zone five times. And therein lies the difference: The good outweighed the not-so-good this time.

That, and you could feel a shift: The Falcons really wanted -- and needed -- this one. Once they had the momentum, they weren't giving it back.

Sure, they were talking about a need for a win all week but, when push came to shove, what were they going to do about it?

The final drive fully notated in this now completely-filled-up notebook was the final touchdown drive for the Falcons. It was a series of events the Falcons have struggled to find consistently through the first half of this season. That struggle? Putting touchdowns on the board directly following a key defensive stop or turnover.

Following Jessie Bates III's second turnover of the day, the Falcons offense took over on their own 5-yard line. They got the drive started with Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier picking up 18 yards on the ground. In three of the next five plays, though, it was the Desmond Ridder to Drake London connection that shined. The Falcons flipped the field with three passes to London that accumulated 46 passing yards, the longest being a 29 yarder. Coming out of a timeout, Atlanta sent Robinson on a wheel route. He quickly bypassed his defender, and with a hand in his face, Ridder placed the throw right in Robinson's step into the end zone. As Robinson ran off the field and into the shadows of the tunnel behind the end zone, I wrote one final note in my notebook: "Can they keep the momentum now?"

Even as I wrote it, though, the atmosphere did feel different than before. The Saints were reeling. They were losing players to injury and they were visibly frustrated with their lack of touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Falcons were confident in a way they haven't looked to be in a long time. Maybe not since their 2-0 start to the season.

The Falcons defense would go on to hold New Orleans to yet another field goal, and the offense would bleed out the clock with Robinson, Allgeier and the Falcons offensive line taking over. Atlanta would go on to win, and after the game, it was obvious why the Falcons believed they would come out on top.

(A rule of journalism and life in general: If someone repeats themselves, it's probably important. You should probably listen. After the game, the Falcons repeated themselves).

Head coach Arthur Smith said the Falcons had the best practices of the year in the lead up to this divisional matchup.

"If you had seen our Wednesday practice, it felt like training camp. It was a damn battle," Smith said. "These guys wanted to win, and I would argue that it paid off."

Calais Campbell agreed saying, unprompted, that the Falcons had their best practices of the week in Week 12, "by far." Jessie Bates III said Smith put the team in pads on Wednesday and that it helped the team "come back to life." Both defenders agreed: That practice and prep lingered into Sunday.

"If you turn on that tape," Bates said of the game itself, "I think you'll see what we did."

However, no one put this week and this win into perspective better than Kaden Elliss. Elliss said the Falcons came off of their bye week with a bit more juice, a bit healthier, of course. Most of all, Elliss said, this team was hungry.

"When we beat Tampa at Tampa we expected to go on a run, and then we lost three straight. And we don't feel like we should have lost any of them," Elliss said.

"Losing those games and to fall the way we did, that bites. That stings. There was some tough self reflection, some tough coaching but it was what we needed and we came out Wednesday fired up and ready to go."

Not unlike they did in the second half Sunday.

The question remains, though (and it was Campbell who posed it): Can they do it again?

"I think that this team is a team that has underachieved for a while," Campbell said. "We could've been playing so much better than we've been playing. But all of that does not matter anymore. We went into our bye, made our corrections and got (another) win against a divisional opponent at home. And that put us in first place (in the NFC South).

"But first place (in Week 12) doesn't matter. We need to keep going forward, keep building on it and stack wins. But the energy of this team, the focus of this team, the way we're going through things at practice - it was a great week at practice. After the game, I told a bunch of the guys, 'You felt the difference at practice. Let's do that again this week. Let's prepare the same way so we can come out and hopefully get another win next week against another hungry opponent.'"

Don't worry, Calais. I'll have a new notebook ready to go, too.

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints during Week 12.

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