NEW ORLEANS — Ralph is a Saints fan who has been writing his fan-centric column on the Saints since 2001.
I've been taught my entire life stealing is wrong, however, watching the Saints steal a win in Atlanta against their most bitter of rivals, was incredible beyond words. When Payton Turner blocked the Falcons game-winning field goal, the feeling I got from the Saints 27-26 opening win was so good, if you bottled it up and sold it, it'd be illegal.
On the list of Saints improbable wins, this one might be the most improbable of them all. It was the first time the Saints have ever overcome a 16-point deficit in a fourth quarter. Before Sunday, the Saints were 0 for 208 when trailing by 16 in the fourth quarter. You'd get better odds of the sun not coming up or Bourbon St. closing early.
When the Falcons had a 3rd and 1 leading 26-24 with 1:40 left they had a win probability of 99.9%. Arthur Smith having absolutely no courage to go for it on 4th and 1 after Marcus Mariota fumbled absolutely broke the poor guy who created a model telling teams if they should go for it or punt.
The Atlanta Falcons, Falcon'd so hard they might have lost the game but they defeated...math? The absolute best thing about the Saints theft in Atlanta, is Falcons fans know in places they don't want to talk about, is – the moment they were up 23-10 and had a 3rd and 5 at the Saints 14-yard line and fumbled – will be the absolute apex of Atlanta's entire 2022 season. It'll never be as good as it was in that moment when they had a chance to bury the Saints and start 1-0. They faltered and it was all downhill from there and likely most Sundays the rest of the season too.
So how did the Saints pull off this miracle after throwing for 5 yards in the first half? I'll let Jameis Winston explain it, “We knew we were passing the ball. Just the approach boom, boom, boom. You get into that rhythm of hey these are where my completions are at. These are where my match-ups are at. There's no game plan involved. This is the defense we are going to get, let's go and play.” It's the perfect description, isn't it? The Saints looked dead as road kill and then 'BOOM BOOM BOOM' and suddenly it was a game.
Winston completed 13 of 16 passes in the fourth quarter and the offense, that didn't look competent most of the afternoon, suddenly was unstoppable. Michael Thomas went from dropping passes and falling down to being the receiver who won the 2019 NFL offensive player of the year and Jarvis Landry delivered 7 grabs for 114 yards and is the leading candidate for free agent steal of the off-season. Having good NFL quality receivers is fun and I enjoyed it very much.
The only thing, the Saints did wrong during their furious comeback was not run Taysom Hill on the second 2-point try to tie the game. Taysom Hill always looks spectacular against the Falcons. He did it again Sunday with 4 carries for 81 yards and a score. The defense was only great when it absolutely positively had to be. They created 2 huge turnovers including one by Tyrann Mathieu that saved the game. Then they stood firm late to give the offense one last crack at the win.
The Saints continued their struggle defending the read option but didn't collapse when it felt like the roof was going to cave in at any moment. The Saints didn't deserve to win Sunday, but swiping a victory from the team we all hate the most, makes the fact the Saints got it EVEN MORE ENJOYABLE. Winning 45-0 would've been fun too, but not as fun as yesterday. What could be better than shattering the Atlanta Falcons and their fan's season into 1000 little timepieces? Nothing that I can think of.
Do the Saints have a bunch of stuff they need to fix like better blocking, Jameis playing more than 1 great quarter of football, and tightening up the run defense?
“It wasn't perfect. Enjoy the win but have tough skin tomorrow.” Dennis Allen is right and can worry about all those things, all I know is the Saints went to Atlanta ransacked, pilfered, and committed the greatest football heist in Saints history to even up the all-time series with the Falcons. Heck of an opening act.
Ralph Malbrough is a contributing writer and Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @SaintsForecast or download the Saints Happy Hour Podcast.
He's doing a live version of his Saints Happy Hour Podcast on September 16th at Port Orleans. RSVP to get a free 'Boys Are Back in Town' cup featuring the Honey Badger and Jarvis Landry and help support Team Gleason.
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