Almost anyone would’ve been satisfied to give up three.
It was early – 6:36 left in the first quarter – and New Orleans led Atlanta 7-0 after scoring on the opening possession of Thursday’s game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But given that the Falcons had driven from their 25-yard line to the Saints’ 3 in eight plays, and were knocking on the doorstep at third-and-2, it’s hard to imagine that a team wouldn’t have been OK with surrendering a field goal and maintaining a four-point lead.
Except Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, and his unit, definitely weren’t going to allow a touchdown without a fight, and even weren’t willing to roll over if it meant giving up the three.
Allen dialed up the perfect blitz, safety Marcus Williams and his teammates executed it as perfectly as it was designed, and the Saints created the first of four forced turnovers in their eventual 31-17 victory.
On the play, Williams lined up close to the line of scrimmage and on the snap, shot the gap between Falcons center Alex Mack and right guard Ben Garland. The timing was spot on; tight end Austin Hooper’s pickup block almost was just as clean.
Hooper caught Williams from his right side as quarterback Matt Ryan stood in the pocket but as Williams hurtled toward Ryan, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to wrap up Ryan and pull him to the turf, Williams fully extended his right arm and knocked the football out of Ryan’s right hand with his own right hand.
The loose ball squirted around the Superdome turf for a few seconds – Saints linebacker Demario Davis had the first shot at it and couldn’t execute the scoop, and defensive tackle Tyeler Davison managed to kick the ball on his recovery attempt – before Williams, who started the mayhem, concluded it.
He dived over the top of several strewn bodies and, somehow, came up with the ball to complete the triple: sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery.
And for the Saints, a play that kept Atlanta off the board in the red zone and showed the caliber of defense New Orleans would play the entire game.