NFL

Underdog Atlanta Falcons Celebrate NFL Achievement 16 Years in the Making

The New Orleans Saints spent most of the 2019 season destroying the NFC South. They’re on the kind of run that makes any loss news. But their November 10 loss to a 1-7 Atlanta Falcons squad wasn’t anywhere close to the sort of defeat they expected.

The underdog Falcons were legitimately the better team on the field in a narrative-shifting 26-9 drubbing. In fact, the win was such a rare feat that it hit several milestones at once — including something unseen in the NFL for 16 years.

Expectations entering the Atlanta Falcons’ Sunday game

Up to the morning of Sunday, November 10, the Falcons’ prospects looked dim. Caesars Sportsbook favored the Saints by 13.5. Overcoming those odds would mean beating the biggest spread of the year.

New Orleans hosted the game, another knock against the seemingly hapless Falcons’ chances. Not one team held the Saints under 10 points in the Superdome since 2005. Atlanta’s notable statistics entering the game were foreboding.

On defense: The Falcons were last in sacks, with only seven total, and 21st in points allowed per game. In the last place concerning interceptions, the team only had two across eight full games. Atlanta was also No. 24 in yards allowed per game.

On offense: The team averaged a minuscule 68.6 yards per game, partially because of constant turnovers. Opposing teams enjoyed constant offensive penalties. And, of course, the Falcons only outscored opponents enough to win a single game.

No wonder even the Falcons faithful were ready for head coach Dan Quinn to move on. The Falcons were, by all accounts, about to get destroyed.

The Falcons did something no team has done for 16 years

In the NFL, each game matters immensely, and playoff fates form quickly. The Falcons entered the Superdome ready to put on a show anyway. Fair-weather fans missed out. All the narratives were completely blown up. And they did it against their toughest divisional rival.

The running game exploded past the anemic average to a massive 143 yards. Quarterback Matt Ryan, who only allowed one sack, finally had some support.

On the other end, Saints QB Drew Brees had a painful night with six sacks total. Wide receiver Michael Thomas — who entered the game with more catches than anyone else in the NFL — caught 13 passes. But no Saints set foot in the end zone all night.

The Falcons’ win marked the fourth time a team on a six-game losing streak beat a team on a six-game winning streak in NFL history. And it was the first time any 1-7 team managed to beat a 7-1 team since 2003.

Can the Atlanta Falcons keep up the momentum?

The Falcons quickly proved their turnaround against the dominating Saints wasn’t a one-off. The next week, they ran roughshod over the Carolina Panthers for a huge 29-3 win. This adds up to the once-dismal Atlanta offense rolling over their opponents 55-12 across two games.

The NFC South schedule opens the door to a third win. The 3-7 Buccaneers represent the final step toward completely changing the Falcons’ fortunes. The Bucs’ similarly rough first half of the season means they’re also a team in must-win mode. Head coach Bruce Arians must turn things around fast to hold onto his job, where he is the fifth coach in just 11 seasons.

Just weeks ago, the Falcons looked poised for a reboot away from Dan Quinn. Playoff hopes are all but non-existent. But this hard-nosed football team is suddenly putting on a show that fans — even the fair-weather types — can’t miss.