On the very first play of the fourth quarter, with the Falcons leading 20-7, momentum swung in both directions. Drew Brees connected with Jimmy Graham, who fought his way to the goal line and appeared to score a much-needed Saints touchdown to make it a one-possession game.
"Really felt like where his arms were, obviously the ball's in his arms, he's across the white line," Brees said. "Sure looked like it was going to be a touchdown for us."
However, the Falcons defense stripped the football and recovered. It was ruled a fumble on the field. The officials went to the replay, and the ruling was upheld. The NFL even released a statement post-game saying "There was nothing clear and undisputable to make a change to the ruling from the field."
"You can look up on the jumbotron and say all day I think this or that, but at the end of the day, whoever watched it that counts, and said it wasn't, so you deal with it," offensive lineman Zach Strief said.
Tight end Ben Watson added, "I thought it was clear that the ball went over. But It was so close. It's just unfortunate."
"I saw a touchdown," cornerback Keenan Lewis said. "I thought Jimmy clearly had possession, he was in the endzone. Once you cross, that's a touchdown, no matter what. No matter if the ball comes out, but I'm not a referee, they made a call, and that's what it is."
For a struggling Saints offense, it was a devastating blow. After they finally found the endzone on their next drive, their margin for error was minute and a late game interception helped seal their fate.
"You go back and say it was huge in that it's seven points or it's not seven points, I mean that's huge," Brees said.
Strief added, "It's a little deflating or a lot deflating just because it's a big swing, especially at that juncture. With the situation we put ourselves in, you'd sure like to have the points. That changes the way the end of that game unfolds."
Following yet another disappointing home loss, tight end Jimmy Graham was unavailable to reporters in the Saints locker room. He did bounce back after a very slow start, finished with six catches, 53 yards, and that fourth quarter touchdown, but with too many early drops, and a perceived lack of effort on some routes, he's starting to fall out of favor with Who Dat Nation. Of course, he remains one of the highest paid players on the Saints roster.
The Saints (6-9) wrap up their regular season next week at Tampa Bay (2-13).