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Ranking the Falcons' five all-time best wins against the Saints

The Falcons-Saints rivalry is one of the best in the NFL for a reason. Not only do the opposing fan bases despise one another, but there have been a number of incredibly compelling and impactful games since the Falcons and Saints first played each other in 1967.

Selecting only five Falcons victories against the Saints for this list is like having to choose the five best episodes of "The Office," there's just a lot of deserving candidates left off. So, with that said, there are a few games that deserve an honorable mention before we get to the top five.

Atlanta's 2016 road victory on "Monday Night Football" featured a lot of great plays and exciting moments, as did the 27-24 victory in Week 3 of 2010, which ended with a game-winning field goal from Matt Bryant in overtime. The 1979 season opener was a wild 40-34 overtime victory that ended with a pick-six by James Mayberry. And, of course, the 62-7 blowout in 1973 remains the most lopsided loss in Saints’ history, so that's fun.

This list is ultimately subjective, but the impact each game had on the respective season as well as the biggest "wow" moment or accomplishment were taken into consideration. Let's get to it, then.


5. Dec. 7, 2017 (The Deion Jones interception game)

This game is surely still fresh in fans' memories. In his young career, Deion Jones has proven to be a nightmare for Drew Brees over the middle. One year after securing a 90-yard pick-six off of Brees, Jones clinched a late-game victory for the Falcons on "Thursday Night Football."

Following a 52-yard field goal by Matt Bryant, the Falcons held a 20-17 lead against the Saints with 3:44 left on the clock. Brees has led a number of game-winning drives against the Falcons in his career, and the crowd in Atlanta grew ever more tense as he methodically drove the Saints into the red zone with under two minutes remaining. On second down at the Falcons' 11-yard line, Brees let a pass fly over the middle toward Josh Hill only to see Jones leap into the air, intercept the pass and land flat on his back after securing the game-winning pick.

The eruption at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was fueled by the release of anxiety that had been building up over the previous couple of minutes. It was a win that ultimately helped the Falcons secure a wild-card berth in the playoffs. Jones' pick wasn't the only notable moment in that game, however; there was also the famous Sean Peyton "choke" gesture directed a Devonta Freeman as well as an illegal formation penalty that wiped away a field goal attempt by the Saints at the end of the first half.


4. Oct. 27, 2002 (Jay Feely's game-winner silences Superdome)

One of the most entertaining games of Michael Vick's tenure with the Falcons was a classic back-and-forth battle against the Saints and his cousin Aaron Brooks. New Orleans had jumped out to a 6-1 record during the 2002 season when Atlanta came to town for a Week 8 matchup in Vick's first full season as a starter.

This memorable game featured a combined eight touchdowns, five lead changes and a total of 72 points. Running back Warrick Dunn led the way for the Falcons, rushing for 142 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Vick also chipped in with 91 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Chris Draft and Keion Carpenter secured interceptions off of Brooks. A late-game fumble by Dunn set up the go-ahead touchdown by Saints running back Deuce McAllister that gave New Orleans a 35-34 lead with 2:20 left in the game.

Vick took over the offense at Atlanta's own 11-yard line with just over two minutes remaining but quickly moved the Falcons into Saints territory to set up a 47-yard game-winning field goal by Jay Feely to give Atlanta a 37-35 victory. That win, and another victory against the Saints, proved to be crucial for the Falcons in 2002, as they earned the second wild-card spot over New Orleans by just half a game.


3. Nov. 29, 2012 (Falcons snap Brees' touchdown streak)

The Falcons had one just twice in their previous 13 games heading into a Thursday night matchup against New Orleans in 2012. Atlanta entered this Week 13 game with a stellar 10-1 record, but its only loss that season had come against the Saints just three weeks prior. Needless to say, this was a game Falcons fans both dreaded and wanted to win more than anything.

Drew Brees entered this matchup with an NFL record 54-game touchdown streak, but that run came to an end against a Falcons defense that forced five interceptions. Despite both teams combining for 719 yards, this was mostly a defensive slugfest. Atlanta jumped out to a 17-0 lead thanks in part to touchdowns by Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez, and the Falcons then turned to their defense to slow down the Saints' high-powered offense.

New Orleans mustered only one touchdown in the game, a 1-yard run by Mark Ingram late in the first half and was held to a season-low 13 points. Brees' five interceptions remain the most in any single game in his illustrious career. A Tampa Bay loss to Denver just three days after Atlanta's 23-13 win secured the NFC South title for the Falcons with a month left in the season.


2. Nov. 12 & 26, 1978 (Wild finishes give Falcons first playoff berth)

These two games in 1978 deserve to be combined at the No. 2 spot on this list. The first game, a 20-17 victory in Week 11, went down in Falcons history as "Big Ben Right." Down four points with very little time remaining on the clock, Steve Bartkowski and the offense needed to march 80 yards – which they had done on their previous possession to cut the deficit to four points – for a game-winning score.

With 19 seconds left in the game and the Falcons at their own 43-yard line, the offense broke the huddle intent on throwing up a creative Hail Mary. Bartkowski let the ball rip down the right sideline and receiver Wallace Francis tipped the ball back into the air and into the arms of fellow receiver Alfred Jackson who ran the remaining 10 yards for the game-winning score. It's a play that remains one of the most exciting and well-remembered in Falcons history.

The second game, which occurred just two weeks later in Week 13, wasn't as dramatic but also resulted in a very important 20-17 victory. Atlanta again found itself trailing by four when Bartkowski got the ball back on the Falcons' 28-yard line with 53 seconds remaining. As he had just two weeks prior, Bartkowski engineered a drive down the field that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to win the game.

Those two games were absolutely necessary for the Falcons to earn their first playoff berth in franchise history. If Atlanta had lost either game, the Falcons would have missed the postseason.


1. Dec. 28, 1991 (Falcons win only playoff matchup)

Given the stakes at play in the only playoff game between the Falcons and Saints, as well as the way in which it ended, it's difficult not to rank this No. 1. The "Too Legit to Quit" Falcons were the bad boys of the NFL in 1991, but they had the play to back up their attitude.

After making the playoffs as a wild card team, Atlanta's first matchup was on the road against its hated rival. New Orleans jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, but the Falcons rallied in the second quarter and ultimately went into halftime down 13-10. In the second half, Atlanta took over. A 20-yard touchdown pass to Michael Haynes in the third quarter gave the Falcons their first lead of the day, but the two teams found themselves tied at 20, apiece late in the fourth quarter.

With under three minutes remaining in the game, Haynes, a New Orleans native, broke free down the sideline for a 61-yard touchdown catch that left the Superdome in silence. That proved to be the game-winning score for the Falcons in what is the best win Atlanta has had over New Orleans in the history of this rivalry.

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