No matter where you are right now, no matter where you’re sitting or standing or laying down as you’re reading this, heads up: Drew Brees might be about to throw you a touchdown pass.
In the Thanksgiving night finale, Brees carved up the Falcons like a Thanksgiving turkey – yeah, it’s a cliché, but it fits perfectly – and, if there is any justice in this league, put the finishing touches on his first MVP season. Brees and the New Orleans Saints decimated Atlanta, 31-17, in a game that wasn’t anywhere near that close.
Along the way, Brees threw touchdowns to Tommylee Lewis, Austin Carr, Dan Arnold and Keith Kirkwood – and if you started any of those undrafted players on your fantasy team this week, you deserve a job on the Saints’ staff.
New Orleans is now a fully operational battle station, and for all the joy at Monday night’s touchdown-fest between the Chiefs and Rams, there’s clearly a third team out there that’ll have a say in how this season turns out.
As for Atlanta? Well, the city’s going to host the next Super Bowl, but the Falcons are going to have to buy tickets to get in just like anyone else.
Falcons punch, Saints counter-punch again and again
The Falcons made the curious decision to put the ball in the hands of the mutant-fast Saints right from the kickoff. And on the very first play, Alvin Kamara ripped off a 23-yard run. And 52 and three minutes later, the Saints were on the board courtesy of a Brees-to-Tommylee Lewis 28-yard touchdown pass.
And then, in what’s been a metaphor for the whole year for the Falcons, Matt Ryan drove Atlanta right back down to the Saints 2 … and fumbled the ball away. The Saints took over, but three plays later, Brees threw an uncharacteristic interception to Damontae Kazee. For a moment, as Kazee ran back the interception for a touchdown, it appeared this Falcons team had life … but a review showed he’d been down back at the Saints 39, and that was effectively that for Atlanta’s chances. Even with that second chance at life, the Falcons could only manage a field goal.
Brees then methodically picked apart the Falcons offense from every angle, targeting eight different receivers for 171 yards and four touchdowns. And where Brees left off, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram picked up, wearing down the Falcons defense with 89 and 52 yards, respectively.
On the other side of the ball, the Falcons exhibited their usual mastery between the 20s, but flailed any time they got within the shadow of the goal posts. Three times the Falcons fumbled at the end of long drives to kill scoring chances, the most crucial coming when Julio Jones coughed up the ball in the red zone just before halftime. And with four minutes remaining in the game, Ryan, on fourth and 10, found Calvin Ridley on a 29-yard completion to the New Orleans 1 – only for Ridley to fumble the ball literally on the goal line. It was that kind of night for the Falcons, and that kind of romp for the Saints.
Saints look primed for a No. 1 seed
The Saints have a wide-open road to a first-round bye ahead, with three divisional games against the Panthers (twice) and Bucs remaining, as well as games against the Steelers and Cowboys. By virtue of their win against the Rams earlier this month, the Saints have an inside line on a 1 seed, and based on the way Brees can distribute the football, they’ll be as dangerous as any team entering the playoffs has been in years.
Atlanta? Well, there’s always 2019. The Falcons have hard questions to answer about virtually every phase of their game, starting with offensive playcalling, quarterback protection and rush defense.