• Falcons dominate on defense, upset rival Saints for their 2nd win of season

    By: D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Updated:

    NEW ORLEANS - Finally, the Falcons put together four quarters of quality football this season.

    Quarterback Matt Ryan, in his first game back from a ankle sprain, directed the Falcons to a 26-9 victory on Sunday to silence the normally boisterous crowd at the Superdome. 

    Ryan cobbled together four scoring drives of 10 plays or more, including a 17-play masterpiece, that helped to shield the defense as the Falcons improved to 2-7 and snapped a six-game losing streak.

    The Saints dropped to 7-2 and had their six-game winning streak broken. 

    The Falcons, who entered the game with only seven sacks, found a pass-rushing groove and came up with six sacks against the normally elusive Brees.

    Channel 2 Sports Director Zach Klein and anchor Alison Mastrangelo will break down Falcons' dominating performance, tonight on Sports Zone Sunday at 11:30 p.m.

    Ryan completed 20 of 35 passes for 182 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He finished with a passer rating of 78.5.

    It was his first game back since having his streak of 163 starts (154 regular season, nine playoffs) broke. 

    The Falcons rushed 34 times for 143 yards for a 4.2 yard per carry average to help win the time of possession battle. The Falcons previous rushing high was 103 yards against Arizona on Oct. 13.

    After Ryan tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass to running back Brian Hill, the Falcons held a 20-9 lead with 14:53 to play.

    It was just a matter of closing the deal against the Saints, who committed four untimely illegal hands to the face penalties and had a roughing the punter penalty that led to a field goal.

    In all, the Saints committed 11 penalties for 85 yards. 

    The Falcons on the strength of three time-consuming scoring drives held a 13-6 halftime lead over the Saints.


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    It was just the third time this season the Falcons have held a lead at halftime. The Falcons led the Eagles 10-6 in Week 2 and held a 17-16 lead at halftime over the Texans on Oct. 6. The Falcons went on to beat the Eagles, but were blown out in the second half against the Texans (55-32).

    The Falcons won the toss and elected to receive. The offense, leaning heavily on the rushing attack, zipped down to the Saints' 13-yard line after a 12-yard gain by running back Kenjon Barner of a direct snap.  

    But the Saints' crowd got loud and right tackle Kaleb McGary jumped offsides followed by right guard Jamon Brown jumping offsides. Instead of first and 10 from the 13, the Falcons had first-and-20 from the 23 and they couldn't overcome the setbacks.

    The Falcons settled for a 37-yard field goal from Younghoe Koo to take a 3-0 lead. The drive took 5:33 off the clock. 

    The Saints answered with a 29-yard field goal by Will Lutz to tie the game.

    The Falcons then put together a 17-play, touchdown drive that included a Ryan scramble on a four-and-4 from the Saints' 44 yard line. 

    Ryan tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper to cap the drive and put the Falcons up 10-3.  Hooper left the game left with an apparent knee injury, but returned to the action.

    The game went back and forth until Koo added a 36-yard field goal with 1:35 left in the second quarter.

    The Saints answered with a 47-yard field goal from Lutz at the halftime buzzer.

    In the second half, the Saints opened with another field goal drive to make it 13-9. 

    The Falcons' defense came through with sacks from linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, defensive end Adrian Clayborn,  defensive end Vic Beasley (one and half), defensive tackle Grady Jarrett  (2.5 sacks). The Falcons also had 10 quarterback hits. 

    The Falcons only had seven sacks on the season before this pass-rushing outburst.  

    On defense, the Falcons, who moved assistant coach Raheem Morris over to help coach the defensive backs, didn't have any blown coverages and free safety Damontae Kazee came in nickel package and added a physical presence.

    Kendall Sheffield started at left cornerback, but went down inside while Blidi Wreh-Wilson came in to play outside in the nickel.

    Kazee and Wreh-Wilson came in for the nickel while safety Kemal Ishmael and linebacker Foye Oluokun left the base defensive package. 

    Freeman left the game with a foot/ankle injury and Hill took over at running back. Ito Smith (neck injury) was placed on injured reserve on Saturday. Rookie Qadree Ollison was active for the first time this season. 

    The Falcons are set to play at the Carolina Panthers at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Charlotte.  

    This article was written by D. Orlando Ledbetter, Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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