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Third Quarter: Hanging Tough


The Falcons are hanging in there. If they can pull off this upset, it would be a major achievement. The defense forced the Saints to go without any points -- a huge accomplishment in light of the Saints' 288 yards offense in the first half. In fact, it was only the third time this season that New Orleans did not score in a quarter.

The Saints' first possession ended in a punt and the second in a 37-yard missed field goal try by John Carney, evening out the 34-yarder missed by Jason Elam in the first half.

Roddy White's 68-yard touchdown catch was a momentum changer, bringing the Falcons to within 28-21 but also marking a change from the first half in which quarterback Matt Ryan struggled.

Some amusing commentary followed White's touchdown, during which White bumped into cornerback Jabari Greer and then caught the ball, did not lose his stride and made a nice run for the score. Said ESPN analyst Jon Gruden: "Big-time blitz pick up by the Atlanta Falcons." And then, "There is a little jostling to say the least there, but I always give the tie to the receiver."

Answered analyst Ron Jaworski: "A little jostling?"

A huge factor in the Falcons' favor is the running game and the performance of Michael Turner, who has a season high 118 yards on 16 carries and only his second 100-yard game of the season. The Falcons needed to be able to run the ball to win and they are.

Said ESPN broadcaster Mike Tirico in the final minute of the quarter: " A little bit of drama building." And also: "[Turner] is a different guy here tonight."

Said Jaworski as the Falcons took the field down one score, "They've taken the crowd out of the game. This is a good feeling right now if you're an Atlanta Falcons fan."

Other observations:

Jon Gruden on Falcons Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey: "Mularkey masks his personnel as well as anyone. He learned that from [former Bengals coach] Sam Wyche." *

Gruden after Sam Baker's holding call: "These penalties, combined with Gregg Williams' blitzing defense and the crowd noise kill you." *

After a 29-yard reception by Michael Jenkins, who was criticized by the broadcast crew earlier in the game, Gruden said, "Really important that Michael Jenkins gets re-involved in this offense." *

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