For the Falcons, last night's 45-16 loss to the Saints was sorely lacking any real positive plays in Atlanta's favor. Just about everything went right for New Orleans: Drew Brees was his typical dominant self, the running game was successful enough to keep the Falcons defense off-balance, and Gregg Williams' defense limited Atlanta to just 16 points on the night.
Outside of another great game by Matt Ryan, it seemed like the rest of the Falcons weren't on their "A" game (or even their "B" game). Michael Turner was the biggest non-factor in this loss, carrying the ball only 11 times for 39 yards, and the run game was abandoned pretty early on thanks to an ineffective defense.
Atlanta's defense played perhaps its worst game of the year, getting shown up on national television to one of the league's top offensive attacks. As for the highlights, well...
The Saints pretty much dominated the highlights category. Poor tackling by the Falcons and some great playcalling by Sean Payton saw Brees throw some bombs downfield and guys like Chris Ivory simply running it up the middle at will. The Falcons' rushing defense (ranked No.4 in the league) didn't look like a group that had just come off a "mini bye week."
The first play from scrimmage for the Saints pretty much dictated how the remaining three quarters would go for the Falcons defense: poorly. The line got almost no pressure, and when they did Brees would inexplicably sidestep out of harm's way. Despite managing to create two fantastic interceptions, the offense was never really able to capitalize on them.
Perhaps the only impressive play of the night came from Matt Ryan: he went 34-for-52 for 373 yards and a score, and both Roddy White and Julio Jones surpassed 100 yards receiving on the night. The real problem came in the red zone, which produced many more field goals than scores.
The real killer came right before half time, when Brees hit Jimmy Graham on a nine-yard touchdown throw that put the Saints up 21-10 with about 24 seconds left. For the Falcons, it was essentially all downhill from there.
With this loss, the Saints have now officially clinched the NFC South, and the Falcons will be relegated to either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed, depending on next week's results.