NFL Matchups: All-Time Series History Between The New Orleans Saints And Atlanta Falcons

A look back at one of the most bitter rivalries in sports, which could also be a key factor in determining the NFC South
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The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons have one of the most closely contested and bitter rivalries in all of sports. Vastly under publicized, the two teams have often finished below .500 throughout their history. That hasn't prevented the two franchises from downright hate at times over the years.

Separated by less than 500 miles, New Orleans and Atlanta have a rivalry that even spills over into cultural and political comparisons. The Atlanta Falcons first became an NFL franchise in 1966. Just a year later, the New Orleans Saints joined them in the NFL.

The Falcons were in the NFL's Coastal Division from 1967 to 1969. New Orleans was in the Capitol Division in 1967 and 1969 and the Century Division in 1968. The two teams still played each other twice during the Saints' first three years of existence. New Orleans took a 27-24 home win at Tulane Stadium in 1967. Two years later, the Falcons hosted the Saints and came away with a resounding 45-17 victory.

Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the Saints and Falcons have been linked at the hip. Between 1970 and 2001, they'd face each other twice a year as NFC West rivals. Those battles have continued since 2002, when NFL realignment placed both franchises into the NFC South.

These teams will renew hostilities in Weeks 4 and 10 this season. New Orleans will travel to Atlanta for a battle on September 29. Just six weeks later, the Saints will host the Falcons on November 10. For New Orleans, that will mark their seventh NFC opponent and fifth NFC South matchup in the year's first 10 games.

Saints vs. Falcons Series History

• 55-55 (all-time record)
• 27-28 (away)
• 28-27 (home)

Nov 7, 2021; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94)
Nov 7, 2021; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) / Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

After the initial home win against the Falcons in their inaugural season of 1967, the Saints would lose their next nine matchups against Atlanta through 1973. It remains the second longest streak either team has had against the other, only topped by a 10-game winning streak the Falcons owned over the Saints between 1995 and 2000.

The Saints finally broke that nine-game skid with a 14-13 home win at Tulane Stadium early in the 1974 season. Later that same year, New Orleans won in Atlanta for the first ever time in six tries with a 13-3 victory. Road trips to Atlanta continued to be a nightmare through the 1970s into the early 1980s for the Saints. After that road win in 1974, New Orleans would lose seven of their next eight road contests against the Falcons through the 1982 season.

The Saints would turn the tables on their bitter rival with the dominance of The Dome Patrol and some explosive offensive weapons in the mid-1980s. Between 1986 and 1994, New Orleans took eight of nine road matchups against the Falcons. It was a dominance that extended into the matchups these teams had inside the Superdome.

Atlanta had a clear edge over New Orleans through the 1970s. Between 1970 and 1982, the Saints had an abysmal 6-20 overall record against the Falcons. This included two improbable last second losses to Atlanta in 1978 that wound up being the difference between a postseason berth for the Falcons over the Saints.

Dec 14, 1986; FILE PHOTO; New Orleans Saints linebacker Sam Mills (51) in action against the Atlanta Falcons
Dec 14, 1986; FILE PHOTO; New Orleans Saints linebacker Sam Mills (51) in action against the Atlanta Falcons / Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

The rivalry flipped after the arrival of the Dome Patrol foursome of Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Sam Mills, and Vaughan Johnson in the mid-80s. Between 1986 and 1994, the Saints owned a 13-4 record against Atlanta. However, the Falcons won what would be the most important showdown in this long rivalry, taking advantage of defensive miscues and offensive ineptitude to win a 27-20 wild-card playoff battle in 1991.

After the breakup of the Dome Patrol and facing a complete rebuild starting in 1994, the Saints were often at the bottom of the NFL standings for nearly half a decade. Their struggles were especially on display against rival Atlanta.

Between 1995 and 1999, the Falcons rolled off 10 consecutive wins in the series. The streak was finally broken with a season sweep of Atlanta in 2000, when the Saints would ultimately notch their first playoff win in franchise history.

These teams would nearly split their matchups between 2001 and 2005, with Atlanta holding a slight 6-4 advantage. Since 2006, coinciding with the arrival of QB Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton, the Saints have taken complete control of the rivalry.

Steve Gleason (37) of the New Orleans Saints blocks a punt resulting in a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons
Steve Gleason (37) of the New Orleans Saints blocks a punt resulting in a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons / NOLA.com

The most famous of those games was in 2006, marking the re-opening of the Superdome after the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. New Orleans thrashed the Falcons by a 23-3 score kicked off by one of the most iconic plays in franchise history, a Steve Gleason blocked punt that resulted in a first quarter touchdown.

Over the last 18 years, New Orleans is 25-11 overall against Atlanta, a winning percentage of .694. The Saints are 13-5 against the Falcons at home over that period, taking three of the last four and four of six against their rivals in the Superdome.

Atlanta has also become a home away from home for the Saints over that span. New Orleans is an impressive 12-5 against the Falcons on the road since 2006. Since Atlanta opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2017, the Saints are 5-2 in that venue, including a five-game winning streak there that was finally snapped last season.

Stars like Brees and DE Cameron Jordan were at their finest in matchups against the Falcons. Brees, who retired after the 2020 season, was 19-9 against Atlanta while with New Orleans. He'd complete nearly 69% of his throws in those matchups for an average of 302 yards per game with 55 touchdowns, 26 interceptions, and 17 300-yard outings. In 26 career games against the Falcons, Jordan has 23 sacks, 40 QB hits, and 27 tackles for loss.

Sep 23, 2018; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws a pass in the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons
Sep 23, 2018; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws a pass in the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons / Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Since taking over for Sean Payton as head coach of the Saints in 2022, Dennis Allen has a 6-6 record against the NFC South. That includes a 3-1 mark against the Falcons. In his first official game as head coach, Allen's Saints overcame a 16-point fourth quarter deficit to take a 27-26 win at Atlanta in the 2022 season opener.

The last meeting between these teams resulted in a 48-17 New Orleans thrashing of the Falcons in the Superdome in last year's season finale. That loss was the last for Falcons coach Arthur Smith, who was fired after the game.

Raheem Morris now takes the helm for Atlanta. The Falcons will also have new coordinators on both sides of the ball and a brand new quarterback in Kirk Cousins, who has a 3-3 career record against the Saints while with the Redskins and Vikings.

New Orleans has some new faces of their own. Coordinator Klint Kubiak takes over the offense from ousted assistant Pete Carmichael. He'll try to improve on an offensive line that was among the worst in the league last season. Top draft choices OT Taliese Fuaga and CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, along with free-agent additions DE Chase Young and LB Willie Gay are also expected to make immediate impacts.

Jan 7, 2024; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Chris Olave (12) catches a pass against the Atlanta Falcons
Jan 7, 2024; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Chris Olave (12) catches a pass against the Atlanta Falcons / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

There are still plenty of faces on both sides familiar with this rivalry. Saints QB Derek Carr leads a unit that ranked ninth in total yardage last season. He'll be joined by dynamic RB Alvin Kamara and young playmakers at wide receiver like Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, and A.T. Perry along with the versatile Taysom Hill and explosive RB Kendre Miller. They'll square off against an Atlanta defense with former Saints DT David Onyemata and LB Kaden Elliss, with longtime stars Grady Jarrett, CB A.J. Terrell, and S Jessie Bates III joining them.

For the Falcons, veteran Cousins is joined by potential young stars like RB Bijan Robinson, TE Kyle Pitts, and WR Drake London. They'll face off against a New Orleans defense with veteran All-Pros like Jordan, LB Demario Davis, CB Marshon Lattimore, and S Tyrann Mathieu. The vets are complemented by young budding stars like DT Bryan Bresee, DE Carl Granderson, and corners Paulson Adebo and Alontae Taylor.

The Saints are trying to snap a three-year string of missing the playoffs, most recently finishing 9-8 last season. Atlanta has not made the postseason since 2017, a six-year streak that includes four consecutive seasons with double-digit losses. If either franchise is to return to the playoffs, getting by their hated rivals in Weeks 4 and 10 in 2024 is one of the keys to doing it.


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Bob Rose

BOB ROSE

Covers the New Orleans Saints as a senior writer for the Saints News Network.  Co-Host of the Bayou Blitz Podcast.