The Falcons and Saints renew acquaintances for the 87th time (counting playoffs) in this long-standing rivalry that started in New Orleans' first season in the league in 1967. The Birds have gone toe-to-toe with the crew from the Bayou the most times of any team in a series.
The last victory for Atlanta in New Orleans came in Week 3 of the 2010 campaign. It was the typical close, see-saw clash that was determined by an overtime field goal.
Both teams scored two touchdowns in the first half as the Falcons got on the board with a TE Tony Gonzalez 13-yard catch and a RB Michael Turner short one-yard run to tie the proceedings at 14 apiece.
The Birds struck first after halftime with a K Matt Bryant 23-yard field goal before the Saints answered at the end of the quarter on a WR Lance Moore 16-yard touchdown.
The final period was a defensive struggle until QB Matt Ryan connected with WR Roddy White for a 22-yard score to take the lead 24-21. The Saints drove inside Falcons territory at the end of the game, but key defensive stops by Atlanta forced New Orleans to kick a 32-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to knot the score and go into the extra period.
The Falcons earned the victory by going 52 yards on 12 plays, taking 7:02 off the clock, as Bryant nailed a clutch 46-yarder for the emotional and hard-fought 27-24 win in front of a silent Superdome crowd, snapping a four-game road losing skid in the series for the Birds.
The offensive stalwarts who turned the tide in Atlanta's favor were Ryan (19-30-228 yds-2TD's), Turner (30-114 yds-32 LG-1 TD) and Gonzalez (8-110 yds-34 LG-1 TD).
Head coach Mike Smith is keenly aware of the intensity now between the two clubs as he approaches his ninth game being involved in this bitter Southern duel between division opponents.
"The Falcons-Saints rivalry is always a great atmosphere wherever it's played and it's usually a battle. We're looking forward to it," Smith said this week.
I'm sure Falcons fans everywhere are, too.