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John DeShazier's turning point: Falcons fast start

Two scores in five plays set tone for game

Check out the Saints battle the Falcons in their final game of the 2016 season.

The situation went from bad to worse for the New Orleans Saints defensively in a matter of two offensive plays by Atlanta on Sunday in the Falcons' 38-32 victory in the final regular-season game at the Georgia Dome.

Bad, as in Atlanta's opening drive, a four-play, 68-yard blitz that lasted just 2:11 and gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead on Matt Ryan's7-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Coleman. The drive followed a three-and-out possession by the Saints on the opening drive of the game.

Then worse, because after the Saints responded with a methodical, time-consuming march of their own – Wil Lutz's19-yard field goal capped the 15-play, 74-yard possession that lasted 8:02, but it nearly was a touchdown drive; Coby Fleener's1-yard reception from Drew Breeswas overturned on replay – the Falcons were even quicker and more efficient on their next possession.

On first down after the touchback, Atlanta running back Devonta Freemantook a handoff from Ryan, searched for room to the left, then shifted back to the right side. There, he found an opening and took advantage. Seventy-five yards later, after a foot chase down the right sideline from Saints cornerback Sterling Moore, Freeman was in the end zone on a jaunt that lasted 11 seconds, and gave Atlanta a 14-3 lead.

New Orleans was playing catch-up from there, cutting the deficit to 14-10 on a 2-yard touchdown run by Tim Hightower, but then watching the lead expand to 21-10 and 28-10 on Ryan touchdown passes to Julio Jonesand Mohamed Sanu. The quick-strike drives had helped put the Saints in an unenviable position, one that even a 19-point fourth quarter was unable to rescue them from.

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