Controlling the Clock
The Falcons let the Saints know from the first drive that they wanted to control the clock. Matt Ryan hit several passes early on and they were all to running backs. The Saints saw a steady dose of Michael Turner in the early running as he helped the Falcons pick up chunks of yards, but several drives stalled out deep in Saints territory, forcing the Falcons to settle for field goals. Still, the Falcons were able to control and handily win the battle for time of possession. Late in the game, Ryan got control of the ball with six minutes left down by 10 and quickly put the Falcons into the end zone with a 20-yard TD pass to Tony Gonzalez while using very little time.
The Falcons hit a rough patch from late in the second quarter to midway through the third quarter before running back Jason Snelling provided a wakeup for the Falcons. Ryan drove the Falcons' offense into Saints territory and hit Snelling over the middle on a simple dump pass while Ryan was under pressure. Snelling turned it up field and provided one of the more spectacular plays you'll see this season, getting hit by a host of Saints, spinning off them and then breaking more tackles on his way past the goal line. Prior to the play, Snelling had been announced as questionable to return with a hamstring injury.
HD in Relief
Rookie wide receiver Julio Jones didn't spend a whole lot of time on the field Sunday as he reaggravated a hamstring injury that kept him out of two games this year. Enter Harry Douglas. Douglas has provided a couple of big plays this season, but he performed very well in Jones' absence, particularly on a 46-yard catch and run at the end of the first half that set up a field goal try before halftime. With the game hanging in the balance with 1:55 left in the fourth quarter and down by three, Douglas made three huge catches on the Falcons' final drive of regulation to help tie up the score.
The Falcons struggled with penalty issues earlier this season and right the ship dramatically around the midway point. But Sunday, the Falcons turned back the clock to right around Week 3 by drawing a bevy of flags against the Saints. By halftime, the Falcons had been flagged for two personal foul penalties and another 15-yarder on special teams before racking up five total for 55 yards at the break. The Falcons added a couple more in the second half to finish with 10 for 85 yards.
Bryant's Streak Ends
Kicker Matt Bryant was in the midst of one of the more impressive streaks in Falcons as he had nailed 28 straight field goals dating back to last season. Early in Sunday's game, Bryant hit Nos. 29 and 30 before setting up for No. 31 right before halftime. A 41-yard attempt from the left hash, Bryant had a rare miss with a chance to put the Falcons within one point of the lead before halftime, thus ending the impressive streak. Bryant's 30 consecutive field goals made is a Falcons team record.