NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - In upsetting the previously unbeaten Carolina Panthers this past Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons didn't make their season or destroy the Panthers'. But it did make them feel a whole lot better.
The Panthers had beaten the Falcons just two weeks previous 38-0 - had beaten them in the last two meetings 72 to 3. Revenge can be a powerful source of motivation.
And to a lesser degree the Falcons might be similarly motivated against the Saints. When Atlanta visited New Orleans on Oct. 15, they were the hottest team in the NFL, off to a perfect 5 and 0 start, mentioned in playoff and Super Bowl conversation. The Falcons tumbled back to earth with a 31-21 loss on national television that night.
They soon thereafter went on a six-game losing streak, largely putting to rest their playoff hopes that officially ended last Sunday night with the Vikings' win over the Giants.
But in winning their last two against Jacksonville and Carolina, the Falcons appear to have rediscovered their mojo. Quarterback Matt Ryan had his highest rating of the season against the Panthers. While his offensive line permitted him to be sacked twice and hit six times, Ryan's lack of protection didn't seem to rattle him as it had during much of the team's mid-season slide.
Julio Jones remained a huge factor with nine catches for 178 yards and a touchdown, while veteran Roddy White chipped in with five grabs for 67 yards. There was perfect balance between the run and the pass and some timely big plays on defense that have been in short supply this season.
The Falcons have already had a better season than last year. The Saints can only hope to equal last year's disappointing 7 and 9 campaign. But a season-sweep of the hated Falcons can soothe some wounds, if not heal them.