With the Falcons preparing to take on New Orleans in the Superdome today, a location at which they haven't won since 2002, in a series that has been dominated by the defending superbowl champions in the Drew Brees era, Falcons fans could be forgiven if they were anxious about today's game, even dreading it. However, the prevailing wind that seems to be blowing among the Falcons' constituency this week though has been hope. This is a game worth looking forward to-and here's a few reasons why.
New Orleans may have dominated the series lately, but they're certainly not blowing the Falcons out of the building, even if they are 7-1 under Drew Brees in the rivalry. When the Falcons visited the Superdome last year, they had their chances to win. A field goal put them within four early in the fourth, and then almost immediately a recovered fumble deep in Saints territory. An untimely Matt Ryan interception at the one yard line turned into what would ultimately be the clinching Saints' drive, but even then, the Falcons still had their opportunity at a last second heave which could have potentially tied the game (pending a two point conversion). During the home tilt last year, the Falcons lost by only three points, despite being down their starting QB and starting RB, both of whom will be suiting up today.
In 2008, the Falcons split the series with the Saints, taking the home half of the split behind an opportunistic defense that picked Brees three times, while the game at the Superdome that year was only a four point loss, a game in which Atlanta did take the lead in the fourth quarter. Of course, they immediately gave up a long kick return to Pierre Thomas, who handed a very short field to Drew Brees with predictable results. So the series isn't quite as one-sided as perhaps the W/L suggests in recent years. The games have been good, back-and-forth affairs.
A quick look at the season numbers also suggests reasons for optimism today: The Falcons have given up fewer yards while gaining more. They've scored more points while allowing fewer. Obviously, the Cardinals were not much of an obstacle at all last week, but it was still encouraging (from a Falcons' perspective) to see a team like the 49ers, with serious questions at quarterback, drive 82 yards in 53 seconds to take the lead late over the Saints in the fourth quarter on Monday night. So feel free to drink the red and black cool-aid this morning, even if it does sound kind of gross.