Falcons vs. Saints 2014 final score: What we learned from Atlanta’s 30-14 win
New Orleans playoff hopes may be over.
The interception came as a Saints’ offense that had been bottled up for three quarters appeared to be coming alive. On the previous drive, Brees had connected for a touchdown with Jimmy Graham, who had coughed up a costly goal line fumble minutes earlier.
The Saints defense did their job, forcing a Falcons punt and handing the ball back to the offense. But McClain stepped in front of Brees’ pass on the sideline, giving Atlanta the ball deep in Saints territory. Matt Bryant knocked in his second field goal of the game to make it a two-possession score.
The Saints made things interesting by driving into Falcons territory with under a minute left. But on the game’s final play, Brees was sacked and fumbled and Osi Umenyora scooped the ball and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown.
1) Falcons pressure came alive.
Atlanta’s pass rush has been abysmal all season — they entered the game with 16 sacks, the fewest in the league — so it was rather surprising when absolutely dominated the Saints O-line. They got to Brees five times, three which came in a first half in which New Orleans totaled just 78 yards.
Even when Brees wasn’t being brought the turf, he was constantly being moved off his spot by persistent pressure, which disrupted the entire Saints offense. Brees finished the day 313 yards and a touchdown, but most of that yardage came during the fourth quarter. More importantly pressure forced him into three turnovers.
3) Jimmy Graham’s fumble was the difference.
Graham’s second reception of the game was this one:
That play, which was ruled a fumble and a Falcons recovery and upheld after a video review, came with New Orleans trailing, 20-7, in the fourth quarter.
No doubt there are Saints fans shouting that the ball broke the plane. That argument could certainly be made, but the fact of the matter is that it’s just too close to overturn. The league has put a major emphasis on the notion that there must be conclusive evidence to change a call this season (the percentage of overturned calls has dropped from 45 percent to 38 percent). Had that play been called a touchdown on the field, it probably stands. Instead, it was called a fumble and the Saints’ playoff hopes are likely dashed.