WATCH: 10 Takeaways From Atlanta Falcons Win against New Orleans Saints
The Atlanta Falcons snapped their six-game losing streak with an impressive 26-9 victory on the road against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. For the first time ever during the Drew Brees era, the Saints were held to under 10 points at the Superdome.
Furthermore, this marked the first time since 2003 that a 1-7 team defeated a 7-1 squad in the NFL.
Here are 10 takeaways from the Falcons big win against their rival:
1. Atlanta's defense was tremendous, holding New Orleans to just 310 yards on offense. That was about 65 yards under their average coming into Week 10.
But that doesn't even tell the whole story. Before the Saints' final drive, which came in garbage time, New Orleans only had 233 yards. Furthermore, 65 of those 233 yards came on the first drive.
Excluding their first and last possessions, the Saints only had 169 yards of offense in the contest.
2. The biggest storyline from this game is the pressure the Falcons defense generated. Atlanta came into Sunday with seven sacks this season but brought down Drew Brees six times in Week 10. Those six sacks were of different varieties too.
Two of them were on blitzes in goal-to-go situations, and three others came with just a four-man rush, where the Falcons defensive line simply ate up the Saints front and gave Brees zero time to deliver a pass.
The last one was a coverage sack, where the Falcons dropped eight and rushed only three. Brees had plenty of time on that play, but no one was open.
Three of Atlanta's six sacks came on third or fourth down.
3. In his first game as the defensive playcaller, Falcons linebacker coach Jeff Ulbrich deployed a mixture of blitzes and coverages, which kept the Saints off-balanced all day. The defensive linemen seemed to play with more urgency while the secondary had its best game of the year as well.
The credit for the secondary improvement can probably go to Raheem Morris, who moved from coaching the wide receivers to the defensive backs during the bye week.
4. While I want to remain positive with these takeaways, it's also worth asking why these defensive coaching changes weren't made earlier in the season? Yes, hindsight is 20/20. If head coach Dan Quinn knew these coaching adjustments would have worked so well, I'm sure he would have done them earlier.
But with this performance, his decision to hire himself as the team's defensive coordinator during the offseason looks worse than it did two weeks ago, and it looked bad then too. We'll see if this defensive improvement continues, but if it does, it won't reflect well on Quinn despite the fact he should receive credit for making the changes during the bye week.
5. However, I will praise Quinn for installing a fantastic game plan in Week 10. The Falcons elected to receive after winning the coin toss, and that helped them set the tone for the entire day. They nearly posted a 34-minute time of possession, and coming into Sunday, the Saints were third in the league in that category.
Four of Atlanta's nine drives were at least 10 plays. The Falcons played a throwback style, where they ran the ball and ate up clock to keep Brees off the field and limit the possessions in the game. It worked perfectly.
6. Quinn also appeared to have a plan on third and fourth downs heading into the game. That didn't seem to be the case before the bye against Seattle. That was a great improvement to see.
As soon as the Falcons failed to convert a third-and-4 late in the first quarter, Quinn immediately waved for his offense to stay on the field. Matt Ryan scrambled for five yards to convert the fourth down.
Later on that drive, the Falcons made aggressive calls on third-and-mediums, which may have been the case because Quinn had already told offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter that the plan was to go on fourth down. Those aggressive playcalls helped move the chains.
7. Julio Jones led the Falcons in receiving with 79 yards, but he only had three catches and all of them came after Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore left the game. Jones didn't make his first catch until there was two minutes remaining in the second quarter.
That's something to keep in mind when these two teams meet again on Thanksgiving.
8. The Falcons rushed for a season-high 143 yards. A lot of that came early in the game, and the Falcons running backs averaged just 3.6 yards per rush, but again, the ground game did enough to give the team offensive balance and eat up the clock.
It obviously helped that Atlanta didn't face a deficit in this game. It's a lot easier to run the ball when that's the case, especially when the average per rush is under 4.0 yards.
9. Younghoe Koo went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts and 2-for-2 with his extra-point tries in his Atlanta debut. He only attempted one kick from beyond 40 yards, and it was narrowly good, but it's hard to not like what Koo did Sunday.
His two makes in the first half helped the Falcons build a seven-point halftime lead.
10. While the Falcons played their best game of the season on defense, the Saints didn't help their cause much. New Orleans avoided committing any turnovers, but penalties killed the Saints all afternoon.
On Atlanta's two touchdown drives, New Orleans committed three penalties on third down which extended the drives. The Falcons took advantage of that new life, but without those fouls, it could have been a very different game.
The Saints also committed a roughing the punter penalty, which gave the Falcons a fresh set of down. That essentially worked like a turnover and led to an Atlanta field goal.
New Orleans finished with 12 penalties for 90 yards.
As great as the Falcons played, they will have to be even better next week. It's unlikely the Panthers hurt themselves as much as the Saints did in Week 10.