No one – and I mean no one – gave the Falcons a chance at beating the Saints on Sunday. I can still hear the reactions to even suggesting such craziness.
The 1-7 Falcons over the 7-1 Saints and their fifth-ranked defense? Down there in the Superdome? Are you kiddin’ me?
And if you're being totally honest, you probably thought the same thing. Maybe a little, right?
Well, not only did the Falcons go down to New Orleans and thump the heavily favored Saints 26-9 in the rowdy confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the guys in Red and Black put together a performance that Falcons fans will remember for a long time.
It's a win that will go down as one of biggest ever for Dan Quinn here in Atlanta.
And when you think about everything that’s gone wrong through the first eight games of the Falcons’ season, it's easy to see why.
The defense simply wasn’t getting it done.
The Falcons were last in the league in sacks (seven), tied for last in interceptions (two), 24th in yards allowed per game, and were 21st in points allowed per game.
On offense, the Falcons went from one trouble spot to another. First it was turnovers, then committing too many penalties and then allowing too many sacks. And the running game was only averaging 68.6 yards per game. Only three teams were averaging less on the ground – the Jets, Dolphins and Bengals – and they entered Sunday with two wins combined.
The end result for the Falcons was a disappointing 1-7 mark and a fan base that’s been growing increasingly unhappy (and louder) with each passing loss.
Say what you want, but through it all – the on-field struggles, the six-game losing streak, the national media criticism and the social media sharks circling – the Falcons players never quit on Quinn.
And on Sunday, Quinn not only had his team prepared for the NFC South-leading Saints, but the Falcons flipped the script in almost every way imaginable against their rivals.
Giving up too many sacks?
Matt Ryan was sacked once for a loss of 8 yards. The Saints entered the game with 24 sacks, which was 10th best in the league.
And how about the Falcons defense?
Atlanta sacked Drew Brees six times, nearly doubling its season total. Grady Jarrett led the way with 2.5 sacks.
Michael Thomas, who had caught more passes than anyone in the league with 73 and led the NFL in receiving yards with 875 yards, managed to catch 13 balls for 152 yards (many of them later in the game) and was kept out of the end zone.
In fact, Brees and the entire Saints offense never once found the end zone against the Falcons.
Quinn has certainly had some memorable wins as Falcons coach.
Beating the Packers 44-21 in the NFC title game to advance to Super Bowl LI was huge. Beating the Seahawks 36-20 in the divisional round of the playoffs that same season was big. Of course, you’d have to mention going into Los Angeles and beating the upstart Rams in the wild-card round of the 2017 playoffs as one of the more impressive wins of Quinn’s coaching career, too.
But no one saw Sunday’s beatdown of the Saints coming.
For all the second-guessing that Quinn has endured after making staff changes and the aforementioned inconsistent play from his players, this one – the first time since 2005 that a team held the Saints under 10 points in the Superdome – had to be sweet for the Falcons’ fifth-year coach.
While the first half of this season has certainly been a forgettable one for Falcons fans, what Quinn and his staff delivered on Sunday was one of the greatest wins in a rivalry that one writer once described as “pure, visceral, sweaty hatred, hotter than Tabasco in July, rage and jealousy and more rage, all set to a funky, thundering backbeat.”
And for that, Falcons fans will always consider this win as one greatest in the Quinn era.