The Atlanta Falcons couldn't repeat the magic they possessed at the Superdome 18 days ago. Despite recovering two onside kicks late in the fourth quarter, the Falcons fell to the Saints on Thanksgiving, 26-18.
The night started with several special teams blunders for the Falcons, but it ended with Atlanta kicker Younghoe Koo successfully converting two onside kicks. The second recovery gave the Falcons the ball down by eight points with two minutes remaining.
But as was the problem all night, the Falcons couldn't block the Saints defensive line on the final possession. The Atlanta running backs were particularly poor in pass protection, and the offensive line was equally bad for a second straight week.
The Saints sacked Matt Ryan nine times, which means Ryan has sustained 15 sacks in the last four days.
The Falcons have a lot to work out this offseason, and it will help getting back first-round pick and guard Chris Lindstrom, but the last two weeks have proven the offensive line is still broken.
The irony from Thursday's performance is the Falcons defense was actually pretty solid. Outside of getting gashed in the running game, the Falcons defense held the Saints to 5.9 yards per pass and only 279 total yards. New Orleans was also only 2-for-10 on third down.
In the second half, the Falcons offense turned it over three times, and the Atlanta defense only gave up six points off those turnovers. One of the Saints touchdowns also came off a near-blocked punt that sailed just eight yards.
The strength of this Falcons team was supposed to be the offense. The Atlanta defense holding a playoff team to under 300 offensive yards should be enough to win. Instead, the Falcons needed onside kick miracles to lose by a single possession.
That's because the offense simply made mistake after mistake. In addition to nine sacks allowed, the Falcons had two interceptions and a lost fumble. Devonta Freeman rushed for only 51 yards, averaging 3.0 yards per carry. His return only improved the running game marginally, and without Julio Jones, the Falcons passing game didn't make enough big plays to win.
There are a lot of things to be disappointed in with this Falcons team. Add the offense failing to live up to hefty preseason expectations to the list.