As I’m finishing up on this it is 12:17 PM on Sunday, August 31, 2014. In exactly one week from this moment I’ll be sitting in front of my TV like every other Saints fan, wondering why the NFL feels the need to take commercial breaks between the inevitable touchback on opening kickoff and the first snap of the Saints’ Super Bowl campaign. But more importantly, we’re all waiting for that great moment of embarrassment that we know is coming. The Saints have brought down a single moment of huge, memorable emotional devastation on the Falcons players, coaches, and fans in every single contest since 2006.
We’re gearing up for more of the same this coming Sunday. In the spirit of my new favorite week-long holiday, “Falcons Hate Week” (which is where the Who Dat Nation concentrates its constant distaste of our age-old rivals into the week leading up to the opening day game), my two contributions to Cover32 this week will be a ranking of every single moment of frustration, inadequacy, and general disappointment that the Saints have leveled on the Falcons since Sean Payton came to town. Today I’ll list the honorable mention and moments 10 through 6. Moments 5 through 1 will land this Friday, along with my preview for the next match in the series. So let’s get started.
2010 Saints vs Falcons: Falcons need a Garrett Hartley Miss in Overtime to Win.
In one of the Falcons’ three victories over the Saints in the last sixteen meetings (and the most recent defeat at the hands of Sean Payton) it all came down to Garrett Hartley. After he made a 32-yard field goal with regulation time winding down, Hartley was challenged with an attempt from only 29 yards out to win the game in overtime. By all rights he should have nailed the chip shot, especially in light of the NFL-record three field goals made of 40+ yards in the previous year’s playoffs. Instead Hartley sent the ball flying wide left, prompting Tony Gonzales to chase down a Falcons trainer on the sideline so he could put his gloves back on to take the field. In a game where the Saints committed three turnovers and Brees was sacked twice for long losses of yardage, the Falcons’ best asset was all the Rum and Coke Hartley put away the night before.
10. 2012 Saints at Falcons: Adventures in Incompetence.
I don’t have to tell you how bad our defense was in 2012, or how badly Drew Brees played in this game. But it’s hilarious to me that the Falcons only won it by 10 points. The Saints were at the weakest they had been in a decade, hammered by suspensions, injuries, Steve Spagnuolo, and at times just poor luck, and the Falcons left this game with a +5 turnover differential (turnovers created minus turnovers lost) and a 10-point margin of victory. Matt Ryan was 18 of 33 for only 159 yards (almost half the average allowed by the Saints that year) and their entire offense only managed one third-down conversion out of 11 attempts. Against the worst defense in NFL history and with Drew Brees having one of the worst performances of his career, all they got in return was two touchdowns and a couple of field goals. That’s a new level of pathetic.
9. 2007 Saints vs Falcons: Reggie Bush in Vintage Form.
This game was a slugfest between the Saints and Falcons (as many of their matchups over the years have been). Bush was the bellcow back for the Saints on this day with 22 total touches (17 carries and five catches) for 73 yards and the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion. Bush was hit hard and often by the Falcons defense, held to only 3.2 yards per rush and 3.8 yards per reception, but when the game came down to him he pulled through. With time expiring Bush was hammered by three Falcons defenders at the goal line, but he spun out and away from them to force his way into the end zone. With the crowd chanting his name, Bush took the handoff on the two-point conversion attempt to extend the lead out of the Falcons’ reach.