What We Saw: New Orleans Saints 17, Atlanta Falcons 13

image via NFL.com

As is the case so often with games between divisional rivals, this was a close fought game, but New Orleans came out on top, securing a seasonal sweep of the Atlanta Falcons.

It also guarantees a losing record for Atlanta, the first since head coach Mike Smith took over. It will also be the lowest the team has placed in the division since Smith arrived—in the previous five years they have never finished lower than second in the NFC South.

Here are a few more things we saw for you to chew over.

  • Despite the losing record and atrocious season, Smith isn’t going anywhere. According to NFL.com’s Mike Silver, owner Arthur Blank has assured both Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff as well. Now, we all know what the promises of owners can mean—absolutely nothing—but given the success the pair have had overall, this decision makes sense. The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league, but just last year the team was in the NFC Championship game. So horrific season aside, it would seem knee jerk to toss Smith out after one bad season out of six. So it seems Smith isn’t going anywhere. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t drive fans nuts with calls like going for a field goal when you should go on 4th down rather than hand the ball back to Drew Brees.
  • A month ago, Mark Ingram was a bust. Two weeks ago, he ran for 145 yards on just 14 carries against the Dallas Cowboys. Now for two weeks in a row he has had less than 10 carries for less than 35 yards. Which is the real Ingram? It’s hard to say. He certainly looks slower and less powerful than he did in college. There was a moment early in the game when he ran into an Atlanta defender, someone he would have run over when he was at Alabama. Thursday night he stopped cold and couldn’t budge the player. We saw it on at least two more runs as well. Sometimes a player just isn’t a fit for a system and that certainly is a factor here—they rarely use him for more than a handful of carries and he doesn’t quite seem to fit into their offensive scheme. However, some of it is on him as well—perhaps not on purpose or due to anything he does or doesn’t do, but perhaps he just came out of Alabama more used up than expected. It’s hard to imagine that he might stick with the Saints when his contract is up, and he may find a better fit elsewhere.
  • One pregame question we had was whether Harry Douglas was going to be taking over as the “new Roddy White” and it seems clear now that he is. Heck, his nine catches for 79 yards included some key grabs and helped quarterback Matt Ryan to one of his best weeks this season. He, like everyone else in the passing game, never saw the end zone and the Falcons continue to die in the red zone. They were able to get Steven Jackson in the end zone once, but that was it. Jackson looked better this week, but overall isn’t providing the pop Atlanta was looking for when they dumped Mike Turner for Jackson. Still, he and Douglas kept things moving and the defense kept the game close. All that was for nothing when rookie wide receiver Darius Johnson fumbled in the fourth quarter, killing a drive. Well, at least they found Douglas, who will be a fine addition across from Julio Jones when White calls it quits.

What’d you see Thursday night? Let me know down in the comments.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

3 Questions about: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons

image via NFL.com

This game was supposed to mean more.

Of course, every game in the NFL means a lot to the guys playing it, but we expected the Atlanta Falcons to be good and vying for—if not owning outright—first place in the NFC South.

That’s not how things worked out though, due to injuries and so this game has lost a bit of its luster.

That’s not to say we won’t be watching and that there isn’t a lot worth watching.

It’s just not the things we thought would be things we needed to watch.

image via Washington Post

  • What’s really going on with Matt Ryan? Sure, the Falcons lost a lot of their offensive weapons for stretches this season but Ryan himself has looked off. If you don’t watch a lot of Falcons football, you might be struck by how…un-Ryan-like he looks compared to the playoffs last year. Roddy White is starting to look better, as is Steven Jackson and Tony Gonzalez hasn’t lost any steam (statistics aside). Can Ryan start to look like he did in 2012?


  • Aside from wondering whether Drew Brees’ neck is stretched like a giraffes’ after the hit from Ahmad Brooks* last week, the Saints themselves have been pretty consistent. The defense has been outstanding and the offense—even with Jimmy Graham’s injury issues—has been solid, albeit not as high-flying as in years past. Their only blemishes have taken place on the road—a loss to the New England Patriots and one to the New York Jets. This is the first of two road games. Can they keep focused?

image via CBS Atlanta

  • Are we watching a changing of the guard in Atlanta’s receiving corps? Roddy White has definitely been slowed by age while Harry Douglas has routinely performed at a high level despite little help against opposing secondaries. This will be another tough test but a good game and we may have witnessed a baton being passed.

*Special note of thanks to Footballguys boss Joe Bryant for the Brees gif—he had it in his “Random Shots” column this week.

Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.