Chris Ivory's 56-yard touchdown run sparked the Saints and the Who Dat Nation against the Falcons (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
At one point they were down ten and looked lost. At another they were up 11 and looked dominant.
But in the end all that mattered was that the Saints were on the right side of a 31-27 instant classic against the Falcons.
Their fourth win of the season was certainly one for the ages.
Let's break it all down.
It cannot be understated. The Saints season would likely now be over had they not stepped up with that goal line stand.
-1st and Goal from the 10-yard line
Matt Ryan hit Harry Douglass for a nine yard catch. It appeared it could have been ten and a touchdown had it not been for the effort of Johnny Patrick, Patrick Robinson and Malcolm Jenkins who not only brought Douglass down but spun him so that the ball would not cross the goal line.
- 2nd and Goal from the 1-yard line
Easily the scariest play with the highest chance of success. Ryan located Tony Gonzales who was open in the middle-back portion of the end zone. Gonzales had a step on Jenkins. The throw was on point. But Jenkins made an incredible effort to sell out for the pass and dive just at the right second to swat away the pass.
- 3rd and Goal from the 1-yard line
Michael Turner took the handoff and had no chance. On the play, Will Smith had great pursuit along with Tom Johnson to stuff Turner for negative yardage.
- 4th and Goal from the 2-yard line
It looked scary on the end but the truth is this play had little chance of success from the start. Ryan went shotgun and as he took the snap, Cam Jordan and Smith provided a solid rush on the outside. While Curtis Lofton blitzed up the middle. It appeared Ryan may have taken a half-step further back than he needed too. This caused him to release the ball falling away and throw more off of his back foot as opposed to him stepping into the pass. Once the ball reached Roddy White, Jabari Greer made a nice play to knock the ball away.
Football is a game of inches. On Sunday deep in their own territory, in fourth quarter, with their season hanging in the balance, the Saints won that battle.
Fast. Violent. Angry. Beautiful.
Chris Ivory's 56-yard touchdown run against the Falcons was all of the above.
Along the way to the end zone, he picked up an excellent block from Devery Henderson.
Other than that, the run was all Ivory.
First, he showed speed to turn the corner on cornerback Asante Samuel. Speed no one realized (maybe not even himself) he had. Once Samuel caught up to him on the sideline, he literally put one finger on Ivory. Ivory then changed direction and used one the best stiff arms I've ever seen to shake Dunta Robinson en route to paydirt.
But the best thing about the run was WHEN it happened. The team had just fallen behind 10-0 and you could sense the anxiety in the stands. That run breathed life into the team and fans and quickly shifted momentum back to the Saints right when they needed it.
Ivory has just forced the Saints to figure out a way to have all four backs active on gameday when Darren Sproles returns from his hand injury.
There is NO way they can bench him now.
The Saints' line has always been is that it's a good problem to have. Well now they must deal with it. Ivory makes too much of a difference.
While I certainly agree Ivory's presence has coincided with the Saints' run game resurgence, it's important to not overlook some schematic tweaks the Saints have done to help spark the ground game as well.
The biggest being the ‘tackle eligible' package.
It's the formation Zach Strief made famous before becoming a full-time starter. It's basically an extra lineman in game reporting as an eligible receiver because of his number. But his real role is to be an extra blocker. On Sunday that role belonged to Eric Olsen. And he excelled.
Against the Falcons, the Saints ran the ball 29 times for 149 yards. One of those runs was credited to Drew Brees which means running backs shared 28 carries. Of those carries, 24 came out of the ‘tackle eligible' package. Those carries netted 139 yards and a touchdown.
The jumbo package also opened up some pass plays as well. The Saints passed three times out of that formation and were 3 for 3 with gains of 19, 13, and 7. The seven-yarder was the Marques Colston touchdown.
As I watch this aspect of the ground game I wonder if this detail may have been overlooked with Joe Vitt gone and Aaron Kromer having to be interim-interim head coach.
Kromer is back to full-time offensive line coach/run game coordinator. His sole focus is the run game. When he was filling in for Vitt, I'm not sure he was able to devote the same amount of detail to schematic run game issues because of other duties.
I don't think it's any coincidence this package returned during the Denver game. The same game Kromer went back to his normal role.
- Little bit of an overreaction to the one Jimmy Graham drop on third down. Sure, he leads the NFL in drops and he must clean that up. But Drew Brees still trusts him in critical situations. And rightfully so, Graham was an absolute beast on Sunday. He finished with seven catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Every single catch resulted in either a touchdown or a first down. Three of his seven came on third down. One 3rd down conversion came on the Saints last scoring drive where Brees checked off and Graham ran a slant and go route. They connected for a 46-yard gain. That play led to a field goal which provided a huge four-point cushion. The goal line stand would have been null and void if the Saints only had a one-point lead. By the way, 265 pound players aren't supposed to be able to cut like that. Graham is simply a freak of nature.
- The other part of the goal line stand that will likely fly under the radar is the punt by Thomas Morstead after the Saints got the ball back. The Saints (rightfully) went conservative and ran three straight run plays. They counted on Morstead to change the field position. And that's exactly what he did. Morstead punted the ball out of the back of his end zone and the ball landed at the 40-yard line. That's 70 yards in the air! The holding penalty pushed them back ten more yards.
- Solid job, Charles Brown. Going into Sunday's game, you were my biggest question mark. I had huge doubts in your ability to adequately replace Zach Strief. You proved me wrong. And the Saints benefited.
- Bad challenge by Joe Vitt to challenge the non-fumble by Douglass on first down of the goal line stand. I'm not sure who advised him but Douglass was clearly down. The timeout lost could've been huge had the Falcons scored on that drive. Luckily, the Saints didn't have to worry about that.
- Isa Abdul Quddus emphatically told me that White pushed off on a very scary pass on the Falcons last drive which was overthrown. After watching the tape, I'm not so sure I saw much contact. Quddus somehow let White get behind him. Fortunately ball fall incomplete. That play could've cost the Saints the game.
- To Tony Gonzales, one word: respect.
There's no way the Saints let a chance to get back to .500 slip away.
Thursday, August 28 2014 9:33 AM EDT2014-08-28 13:33:06 GMT
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