The New Orleans Saints take on the Atlanta Falcons at the Caesars Superdome in Week 9 of the 2021 NFL season.
The end-of-game adrenaline rush wasn't enough to wash away the beginning-of-game errors for the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in the Caesars Superdome.
A 19-0 scoring run and 22-point scoring spree – both in the fourth quarter – weren't enough to overcome the hole New Orleans dug for itself, and the big plays it couldn't prevent, in a 27-25 loss that dropped the Saints to 5-3, a game behind Tampa Bay and a game ahead of Atlanta in the NFC South Division.
There simply wasn't enough unit-to-unit execution from New Orleans to allow New Orleans totally to overtake New Orleans. And make no mistake: The forensic analysis will strongly point to the Saints as the culprits in this loss.
OFFENSE: Seven dropped passes, seven offensive penalties and a turnover go a long way toward a explaining how a unit can sputter, if not altogether stop, during a large portion of a game. New Orleans required its furious rally because of more self-inflicted damage on offense than it usually can pack into three or four games. The final numbers were more than respectable (376 yards, 3 of 4 in the red zone, 32:21 in time of possession, 26 first downs, touchdowns on both goal-to-go situations). But the drops and penalties were eyesores that dominated the landscape until the fourth quarter and by then, Atlanta had built enough of a lead to only require a field goal to win after the Saints scrambled back to take the lead. It was an outlier of sloppiness at an inopportune time.
DEFENSE: Atlanta finished with 366 yards of offense, but it seemed like more. Probably, that was because the Falcons were able to tap the Saints' defense for completions of 34, 39, 49 and 64 yards. New Orleans limited Atlanta to 34 rushing yards on 25 carries, but the Falcons were potent enough in the one dimension at their disposal. Quarterback Matt Ryan completed 23 of 30 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. His 64-yard completion to Cordarrelle Patterson down the right sideline with 61 seconds left put Atlanta in position to kick a chip-shot field goal to win it. New Orleans simply couldn't string together enough stops or prevent enough long plays, two things that this defense prides itself on being able to accomplish.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Probably the best across-the-board play from a Saints unit on Sunday came from special teams. Brian Johnson made both field goal attempts – a 35-yarder and a career-long 52-yarder. Deonte Harris was good in the return game, with two kickoff returns for 51 yards (the Falcons stopped kicking to him) and three punt returns for 50, including a 26-yarder to give the Saints a short field en route to a lead-taking touchdown in the fourth. Blake Gillikin had a punt downed inside the 10, and New Orleans stifled Patterson on kickoff returns (three for a 21.7-yard average). It was the phase that stood out for the cleanest play, despite a holding penalty.