Devonta Freeman accounted for 200 yards of offense (145 rushing, 55 receiving and one touchdown), Tevin Coleman ran for three touchdowns and linebacker Deion Jones ran an interception back 90 yards for a touchdown as the Atlanta Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints 45-32 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Falcons improved to 2-1 and the Saints are 0-3.
Quarterback Matt Ryan managed the game effectively in the hostile environment. He completed 20/30 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns. He even scrambled for an 18 yard gain. Dan Quinn explained the uptick in explosive plays in Tuesday’s press conference.
“Well number one in terms of it’s not just in the pass game where the runners get involved so it’s not where it’s just hey, they’re throwing it all the time. It’s very balanced in that way. I thought that was really evident yesterday in the game that the running backs had. They were a big factor in the explosives yesterday.”
The Falcons scored four consecutive touchdowns in the first half against the Saints. The offense has now scored on 10 of their last 12 drives.
In pregame, players from both teams formed a circle at midfield and held hands after the national anthem as a show of unity against injustice in America. The idea was discussed earlier in the week by Saints coach Sean Payton. He called Atlanta coach Dan Quinn to set the stage.
“The teams getting together throughout the week, and I agree with you I was really proud to be a part of that type of demonstration,” Quinn said. “It’s going to take everybody together to get the change that we want to. We wanted to give the national anthem the respect that it deserves, and I thought that clearly came across too. Two archrival teams knowing it’s going to take everybody to get the change that we want to.”
The Falcons (2-1) scored touchdowns on five straight possessions and tacked on a Matt Bryant field goal on their sixth drive to build a 38-25 with 2:58 to go in the third quarter.
Then with the Saints moving into position to cut the deficit to six, Brian Poole jumped a slant route and deflected Drew Brees’ pass intended for Michael Thomas. The ball bounced high into the air and Jones, who played his high school ball in New Orleans, raced 90 yards for a score, putting the Falcons up 45-25 with 13:37 left.
“While I was running, it seemed to be going in slow motion,” Jones said. “When I got near the end zone, I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to get across the line and get in.’ It was just amazing to come back here and play in front of all my fellow New Orleanians as well as to play in front of my entire family. It was a blessing. It was like a dream come true.”
Before that play, Brees had thrown 305 passes without an interception, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history behind Tom Brady (359), Alex Smith (312) and Bernie Kosar (308).
The Atlanta Falcons (2-1) play the Carolina Panthers (1-2) this Sunday at the Georgia Dome at 1:00PM EDT. Dick Stockton, Chris Spielman and Kristina Pink will provide the play-by-play, commentary and sideline reporting for Fox. John Hussey will be the referee.
Photos in this article are by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Michael DeMocker of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.