It was a heated divisional contest between the top two contenders in the NFC South. There is no love lost between these two teams. They battle twice a year in what always proves to be a nail-biter. This time, the game came down to inches and a bold call by Falcons’ coach Mike Smith.
In overtime, Coach Smith decided to go for it on fourth and inches, deep in the Falcons’ own territory. The Saints defense, which had played well all game, stuffed Turner, and regained possession. There has been a lot of debate about this gutsy call, but if you look at the game objectively, it seems to have been a rationale decision.
Here’s why I think Mike Smith made the right call:
The Falcons were 2/3 on fourth down conversions
The Falcons were efficient with their run game, averaging 4.6 yards per carry
The Saints were not in a complete rhythm on offense – only 30% on third down (versus season average 59%) and only 18 first downs (versus season average of 25)
Perhaps most importantly, the Saints failed gain a first down in their last possession in regulation that would have sealed the game.
It was a calculated gamble…the problem is, Smith had underestimated the intensity that the defense had been gaining, and overestimated the offense when they hit a late lull.
That said, the Saints seemed to get back to the energetic and focused play to which we have become accustomed. The defense played very well throughout most of the game, with the largest Falcon gains coming at the end of the fourth quarter when the defense was playing softer coverage. While the offense played with more fire, there were some mental mistakes that prevented them from playing explosively. The failure to make big plays in the end when it counted in this game, and games of late, has me concerned about the offense’s confidence. We have not been playing with that swagger – that attitude that says “we score every time we get the ball”. Green Bay has it now…we are that same team, we just have to get it back.
The Saints are in a good position as they enter the bye week. In the first half of the season, we have seen the offense, defense and special teams play at an elevated level, albeit at different times. I have faith that Coach Payton and his staff will put together a plan to have all three hitting on all cylinders as we enter the second half of the season.