Short takes: Falcons stun Saints, and it’s thanks to defense

Kemal Ishmael strips Jimmy Graham at goal-line in big fourth-quarter play. (AP photo)

Kemal Ishmael strips Jimmy Graham at goal-line in big fourth-quarter play. (AP photo)

Kemal Ishmael strips Jimmy Graham at goal-line in big fourth-quarter play. (AP photo)

They’re still alive. The Falcons stunned the New Orleans Saints 30-14 Sunday to stay alive in the NFC South Division race. With the win, the Falcons are 6-9 and will face the 6-8-1 Carolina Panthers for the division title next week. I’ll return shortly with a column on game. Until then, here are my three “Short Takes”:

UPDATE: HERE’S a link to the game column on MyAJC.com.

1. Defense. Yes, that’s right, defense: Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has been publicly flogged in some corners for the dreadful performance of his defensive unit for most of this season. The Falcons were ranked 32nd in total defense entering the week, largely because of weak personnel and the absence of pass rush. But the defense forced four turnovers and sacked Drew Brees five times. The Falcons also pitched a relative shut out against the Saints in the first three quarters — unless you count a one-play, one-yard touchdown drive that followed Jalen Saunders’ 99-yard kickoff return  to open the game. Brees was sacked three times in the first half alone and New Orleans was held to 78 yards in offense. The biggest plays: a strip by Kemal Ishmael against the Saints’ Jimmy Graham at the goal line (held up on replay) and an interception by Robert McClain to end the game.

2. Julio Jones just might be bionic: The Falcons have been saying Jones has a hip injury. Now there are reports it’s actually an oblique strain. Does it matter? This guy is bionic. After sitting out against Pittsburgh last week and then every practice leading up to the New Orleans game, Jones leaped and caught a 19-yard pass on the Falcons’ second offensive snap. He had a key 24-yard reception on third-and-10 from the Saints’ 27 with eight seconds left to set up the Falcons’ first touchdown, a 3-yard shovel pass to Eric Weems to give the team a 13-7 lead. Jones said after the game that he didn’t know if he was going to play until after pregame warm-ups but he finished the game with a team-high seven receptions for 107 yards. This is one more game that will be brought up by his agent in contract extension talks.

3. Who Dat Say … Say what? So you think the Falcons have problems? Things could be even worse in New Orleans. In addition to getting swept by Atlanta in the season series, the Saints have fallen from 11-5 last season to 6-9 this year and, incredibly, have dropped five straight home games for the first time since 1980, when the team went 0-8 at home and finished 1-15. They’ve done this despite the fact Brees generally has been considered still one of the elite quarterbacks in the game, although Sunday’s performance is strong evidence to counter that argument.


A recent writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
— AJC: Live: Falcons finally in a can’t-lose situation
— MyAJC: Falcons still have playoff shot — and that’s not a negative
— MyAJC: There goes Justin Upton, and maybe ’15 season with him
— AJC: Justin Upton is latest chapter of Braves’ strip down
— MyAJC: Ranking Atlanta’s head coaches, from Budenholzer to…
— AJC: After crushing Cavs, Hawks (18-7) have earned some attention
— MyAJC: Expect Falcons’ roster overhaul, regardless of finish
— AJC: 5 thoughts on Falcons, starting with Arthur Blank’s marketing problem
— MyAJC: John Hart: ‘It’s not like I’m breaking up the ’27 Yankees’
— AJC: Falcons reality check: One great half won’t get it done
— AJC: What would it take for Falcons to keep Mike Smith
 — MyAJC: Hawks go from off-cour embarrassment to on-court success
— AJC: Playoff committee got teams right but changes are needed
— AJC: Jimbo Fisher leaves Georgia off ballot; Bielema puts Tech 19th on his (huh?)
— AJC: Playoff committee got teams right but changes are needed
— MyAJC: SEC title: Mizzou can’t compete with Alabama –nor can any team
— AJC: Short takes: Sims leads way as Alabama rules SEC again
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Georgia Tech ends Florida State’s run
— AJC: New rankings make college football playoff look like set up
— MyAJC: Rare situation: Eyes are off Bulldogs and on Jackets

 

Reader Comments 0

138 comments
-OBrien-
-OBrien-

@Rev,

I am unable to post on other blogs (not just Hawks). 

Dribble
Dribble

Good win Falcons!  Problem is they can't beat a good team minus Arizona.  And if they make the playoffs by beating a sorry Carolina team it will be one and done come post season. 

TrueFalconFan
TrueFalconFan

Yoo Jeff where is your "baby brother JSSn" ??? Com ON MAN

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Wow, what a win....I'm sure the Fool was excited. Probably patted Dumitroff on the back and said "Whatta we need to spend to keep this up?" I'm sure he got an earfull from hairboy. Dumitroff must have some compromising photos of the Fool for him to not be the first one canned from this mess.

Intruder
Intruder

No surprise. Smith's forte` is whuppin' up on bad teams.

WDE
WDE

@Intruder well lets just ignore the fact that the Falcons were the underdogs here. So bad as the Ain't are the "experts" said we are worse, but we beat their azzes, but please don't let the facts ruin your agenda .    

McNasty - Dead or Alive
McNasty - Dead or Alive

Someone send me a link to something that I can send to my boss in Lafayette La. that is huge aint's fan. 

I am aware he IS my boss.

Maggot_Man
Maggot_Man

Comical season to say the least…….team is wallowing in slop along with about 80% of league teams. Any rational person actually spend hard-earned money on this crap?

The_Shade
The_Shade

Congratulations to the Falcons and a stirring win.  However, it could be the costliest win in franchise history.  Remember how much you enjoyed this win next year, when Dimitroff STILL cannot identify defensive talent, the offensive line is STILL terrible, and we STILL have no pass rush.  We have probably traded one win - and a very great win it was, kudos to the team - for another year or more of poor draft picks (both where we pick and who is doing the picking), poor clock management, and lackluster results.  Sure hope I'm wrong, but the last two years suggest otherwise. 

BravesFan79
BravesFan79

@The_Shade The O line will be just fine next year.  But THIS was the draft to get TOP defensive talent that would of put us back in the top 20 in defense.   I want the Falcons to be ELITE, not just a 1st round playoff team.   The Falcons have had very little luck picking outside of the top 10 of the draft!   What defensive studs are available thru free agency?  Who ever gets Suh will be paying an outrageous sum of $$, because hes the only TRUE difference maker out there on D.   

BravesFan79
BravesFan79

@The_Shade The difference bt pick #7 and pick #21, or 24 if we win, is the difference bt Usi and Abraham.  I think weve all seen what a downgrade Usi has been!     Go ahead and be happy we won and will likely get to the 2nd round where we will get slaughtered by Green Bay/ Detroit or Seattle.  But we might of just cost us a nice Super Bowl run in the future.  And yes, i was fully expecting the Falcons to go back to being a Super Bowl caliber team for the next 5 years with ONE great defensive draft.   If that makes me a bad fan, then so be it!

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

Keep Smitty, Fire Dimitroff...we need someone who can draft!!!!!!!!!

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

I guess the TROLLS are not coming out from under the bridge!

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

Steven Jackson being out  IS a great thing indeed!!!!. RISE UP!!!!

1peatfor7
1peatfor7

@TrueFan1 That was the best thing to happen.  Do you think he scores like Devonta did on that run? No he'd get tripped up on that first tackle and go down.  Just another reason Smitty needs to be fired - he's the only one that doesn't realize our backups are better than the starting RB.

GT71
GT71

If you can't be the best team, be the best worst team.

Mike should stay, Dimmy can go.  It didn't take much 'talent' to know Julio was a stud; same for Trufante.  Everything else has been a catastrophe.  But if their top 4 picks aren't linemen in the draft, it's another 3 years of mediocre-to-terrible football.

I feel for Steve Smith, but anno domini is here.  It was here 2 years ago - never should have been signed, Dimmie.  This is the age of the strong-legged, fire-hydrant, quick-to-the-hole back who can run a route and block.

rockinreel
rockinreel

All you Beirmann haters all year.  The guy sacked Drew again, which caused the fumble run back for a touch down to seal the game.  Beirmann, Worrilow, Hageman, and Peters played lights out filling the holes and stopping the run game.  Was nice to see our DL and Linebackers play at their highest potential for a change.  Secondary played awesome also. The Saints offense only realistically earned one TD.

TOJacket
TOJacket

Who Dat........screw Dat!.................................get the brooms out losers.

SurfLand
SurfLand

with this huge win, ATl is back!  ATL beats carolina and wins the division---mark it down!  atl can do some damage in the playoffs!

WDE
WDE

@LostBurro Dude it was a great win but it was ONE win over a bad team, true its the Ain'ts and beating them is always sweet but still one win over a bad team...now let us beat Carolina and well, we can all break out the Kool-Aid !   

BirdBeak
BirdBeak

@WDE @LostBurro  Everyone should go to the Saints page and see how freaked out they are blaming anyone and everyone for that loss and their season. Beating a bad Saints team in their house is always enjoyable and seeing the team has not given up on Smith is encouraging but there are still questions to be answered. I never though they would win in New Orleans. If they get the win next week and happen to face the Cardinals in the playoffs they could win that one. What would that say about Smith and D? Stay tuned!

drew56
drew56

What a pleasure to see some inspired defense by this team.  Steven Jackson being out might be a good thing...I'd like to see what Freeman could do with 20 touches in a game. 

atlfanman
atlfanman

Congrats to the Falcons for sweeping the Saints! Although I have major issues regarding the GM and leading members of the coaching staff I wish them well against the Panthers. If the Falcons defeat the Panthers, they still could get a contributor on the defensive side with the 21st pick. That's if they have great evaluators looking at the college talent. I would love to see the Falcons hit home runs throughout next year's draft to fill obvious holes.

RogerHenslee
RogerHenslee

@atlfanman  at #21 we wont get a premier DE or pass rushing LB(unless someone who has some sort of issues such as a bit smaller, slower, prior injury, smaller school etc) in the draft as those guys generally are gone by then. Will need one in FA anyway....that being said, I would trade that for a deep run in the playoffs (however unlikely that is) !

BravesFan79
BravesFan79

@RogerHenslee @atlfanman What ive been saying all week.  Us falling from #7 to #21 could cost this defense the premier talent it needs to be among the top half in the league.  Meaning instead of going back to being a serious contender in the next few years we will have to hope to be a fringe playoff team.  

I would trade that for a Super Bowl trip, or even if we ruin the Seahawks season.  But seriously doubt it, my 2nd favorite team the Lions has a better shot than us.  

80sFalcon
80sFalcon

I must say I was on the "fire everybody" band wagon early on in this miserable season. However, over the past three games, I've watched this Falcon team play with heart and a tenacity not seen since 2012. That being said, I'd like to see Smith come back next season as HC. But, I would like to see a change at GM. Dimitroff has blown the past two drafts and I see no indication he will do any better the next draft. Time to go D

JackClemens
JackClemens

@80sFalcon Me too. But I must say, what Smitty did with a good roster his first five seasons is better than any Falcons coach ever (other than, of course, Dan Reeves' one good year). So, really, if changes are coming it has to be in the front office, if justice is be served. Not only bad drafts, but what kind of impact did Solai and Jackson have this year?

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@80sFalcon  TD's past is . . . not so good. The 2014 draft picks played well and contributed to beating the Saints Sunday, and Julio earned his keep. They may have a game or two left this year to show they've turned the corner and help TD keep his job.

SeanLB
SeanLB

@DawgDadII @80sFalcon He also hit on Trufant, so that is also encouraging.  I'm watching him develop into a top-flight corner.  TD is winning me over again with his prudent choices.  How about watching Ra'Shede Hageman develop?  That guy looks like he can really be a monster.  

BravesFan79
BravesFan79

The Saints have worse problems than us??   I think not!   At least the Saints will be able to get a top defensive talent in the draft, the Falcons will have to rely on free agency.  We all see how much relying on free agency has helped the past few seasons.  

VeryDisgusted
VeryDisgusted

One point to be made -- this Falcon team has not quit on their HC and that is a good reason to keep HC Smith even with some of his mistakes


Have you forgotten 2008 to 12.  Took forever to have 2 winning yrs in a row and we got 5 out of HC Smith

Michaelee
Michaelee

I said that 7-9 could win the division this year when the season begin. 

Next week will be a great game. May the best "Worst Team" win!

Who knows, get into the playoffs and anything can happen.


Merry Christmas Saint Fans!

WhopperDawg
WhopperDawg

It is the perfect storm for those who want change and I do. Worse division in the history of the NFL, beat a downtrodden Saints team, and the disneys emerge. Guarantee you Panthers go down next week, our draft choice flips into the 20s and TD and Smith are retained as we are the tallest midget. Great.

VeryDisgusted
VeryDisgusted

@WhopperDawg 


I will take a division title anyday 7-9 or not


These players busted their azzes today and deserve credit


They have played competitive football nearly all yr and had it not been for a couple of coaching decisions they would be 8-7 instead of 6-9 --- cripe give em credit where its due


You can do a H of a lot worse for a HC than Coach Smith

VeryDisgusted
VeryDisgusted

@Archangel 


It it means Rex Ryan, Josh Mc Daniel or Greg Schiano (names I have heard)  I will keep HC Smith

WDE
WDE

@DisgustedFan @Archangel how does a buffon like Rex Ryan even get in the discussion? He's a better coach than Mike Smith the day Rosie O'Donnell is better looking than Kate Upton.. 

Dawg Portmann
Dawg Portmann

Great win (sweep) against our most hated rivals! Despite both teams having underwhelming seasons, I feel as though this season was not a complete bust due to beating the lousy, stinking, Saints twice this year. It feels especially great after all of their trash talking this week. Moving forward: FORGET ABOUT our record moving forward and give the same performance next week. Let's get on a roll and see what happens. "Whoo Dat"????

We'll, "Y'all Ain't"

Go Falcons!!!

FanSinceBartkowski
FanSinceBartkowski

On the NFL site, there is no game scheduled for next Sunday night. One article says there's a good chance Falcons/Panthers will be flexed to the night game.  Any idea when we'll know?