In what seemed like a flashback to 2008, the Falcons came out Thursday in the first half and ran wild on the New Orleans Saints.
Atlanta's running game hadn't been very effective in recent weeks, but against Tampa, some promising signs started to show from Jacquizz Rodgers. In the first half, Rodgers was a secondary player to Michael Turner and his huge runs over a Saints run defense that was ranked 32nd in the league entering Thursday.
On Atlanta's first possession they opened the game with a pass completion to Tony Gonzalez but ran the remainder of the way as they went 80 yards in those six plays to take a quick 7-0 lead. Turner punched it in on a 3-yard run, giving him 57 rushing touchdowns in his career with the Falcons and 58 total touchdowns, taking sole possession of first place on the Falcons franchise all-time scoring list.
Atlanta wouldn't get any more points in the first quarter, but they continued to pounce on the Saints. On New Orleans' first possession, Thomas DeCoud picked off Drew Brees on a deep shot into Atlanta's endzone. The interception was DeCoud's fifth of the season, a career high.
The Falcons kept the pressure on the Saints, scoring on the second play of the second quarter, a 17-yard strike from Matt Ryan to Tony Gonzalez. Though Ryan started off a little cold, he warmed up as the half progressed. He entered halftime completing eight of 16 passes for 81 yards.
DeCoud started the pick party on Brees and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon kept it going, getting his first career interception on a Brees pass that set up a Matt Bryant field goal to give the Falcons a 17-0 lead.
Despite how well the Falcons played for much of the first half, Brees, as he is prone to do, found a rhythm and made things interested. Late in the second quarter he led the Saints on an 11-play, 80-yard TD drive to close the gap to 17-7. After the Falcons couldn't add to the lead, he took over again with a few ticks over two minutes remaining in the half. He took New Orleans down to the 3-yard line and it looked like they'd take a three-point deficit and the momentum into the locker room.
But the loud Georgia Dome, who had already forced one false start penalty and a Saints timeout because of their volume, made getting another play off challenging and the final seconds passed without another play, preserving the 17-7 lead.
Turner's 71 yards in the first half is his fourth-highest total of the season.