Falcons – 30
Saints – 14
For as poorly as he’s played and more how much criticism he’s garnered, Drew Brees is what’s been keeping the Saints in the playoffs hunt this season. At 6-8, they had to win out to make the playoffs. I was holding on to all hope that one of these teams would finish 8-8 and the NFL playoff structure wouldn’t be spit on for the second time in the last five years.
But Brees didn’t help the Saints at all in this game. Two interceptions and a lost fumble doesn’t help the cause. Brees was outplayed all day by Matt Ryan, who finished the game 30/40 with 322 yards and a touchdown. No interceptions. Ryan showed up just in time to move to 6-9, setting up a week 17 showdown with the Carolina Panthers for the right to be called the shittiest team to ever make the playoffs. I know, you may say the 2010 Seattle Seahawks hold that title, but until one of these teams actually wins a playoff game, they can have the title.
Jimmy Graham may have been the Falcons MVP in this game. Not only did he have two dropped passes, but also had the ball stripped from him on a controversial play on the goal line. It looked like Graham was in the end zone, but he was pulled back and the ball was taken from him. This would have brought the Saints to within six, but instead it was ruled Falcons ball.
Even though they’re 6-9 and have been one of the most off-and-on teams all season, the Falcons have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Personally, they’re my pick to win the South at this stage of the game. They’ll likely play either the Packers or Lions in the wild card round, whichever team loses in their matchup next week. And honestly, the Falcons are a running game and a few defensive players away from being an 11-win team. Matt Ryan is a top-10 quarterback and has shown he can carry this team.
The Saints have shown that the problem isn’t just Drew Brees’ play. Sure, he wasn’t himself this season. He lost games for the team. But he doesn’t play defense. He doesn’t kick field goals. He doesn’t catch the ball. The problem is much more than Drew Brees, and this team is going to need to acquire pieces in a lot of places if they hope to contend next season.
The Falcons have failed over and over again this season. Yet they’re just one win away from being a success. Other teams without playoff hope could learn from the Falcons, even be inspired that such an amount of failure can eventually lead to success. To go forward, you must first go back. Or in the case of the Falcons, you must hope that everyone around you also sucks. They’re just the best of the worst.
Side note: On the last play of the game, Osi Umenyiora, both literally and figuratively, ran away with the Saints season. This play was just the perfect way end to the Saints’ season.