Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 11/11/12
It's hard not to think that the New Orleans Saints don't have the Atlanta Falcons' number. Even with the Falcons' entering as the NFL's last unbeaten team in Week 10 of the NFL season and the Saints at 3-5, New Orleans registered its fourth straight victory over its NFC South archrival, 31-27, on Sunday at the Superdome. It's a clich to say the records don't mean anything in a rivalry game, but in this one it proved true. As many changes as the Falcons have made entering this season -- a more explosive offense, a more unpredictable defense that uses myriad ways to get pressure on the quarterback -- this game resembled so many of the Falcons' other defeats at the hands of the Saints in recent years. Both teams scored five times. The Saints had four touchdowns and a field goal while the Falcons had three touchdowns and two field goals -- that whole trading a field goal for a touchdown thing has gotten the Falcons beaten so many times during Mike Smith's tenure as Falcons' coach against New Orleans. It's a major reason why the Falcons traded up to take Julio Jones in 2011 and made the changes they have. As amazing of a mark as Smith has had during his five seasons in Atlanta -- he owns a .699 winning percentage and his 51 wins are the most in franchise history -- the Saints have bedeviled him. Smith is 2-7 against his nemesis. In two of those losses in recent years, one in 2010 and Sunday's, the Falcons entered with the best record in the NFC, but still could not defeat the Saints. The lone victory the Falcons own against the Saints in the last four seasons came when Saints kicker Garrett Hartley missed a short field goal attempt in overtime in 10. That is among the reasons why this loss will haunt the Falcons, but it could have been much worse. Losing to a rival hurts more -- especially in a game when you're favored to win -- but down 28-17 in the third quarter, the Falcons could have been blown out and that would have humiliated them, as many outside observers might have written them off as a paper tiger that had only beaten bad teams. Instead, they rallied and quarterback Matt Ryan had the Falcons positioned to take the lead in the final minutes. He looked like he had a touchdown pass to Harry Douglas at the two-minute warning that would have put Atlanta on top 33-31, but Malcolm Jenkins and Johnny Patrick, Douglas' teammate in college at Louisville, tackled the Falcon at the 1-yard line. Then, the Falcons had three plays to get one yard against a defense that had given up more yards than any in the history of the NFL through its first seven games. On the next play, Ryan threw incomplete to Tony Gonzalez. On third down, running back Michael Turner was stopped for a 1-yard loss by a defense that was allowing 176.5 rushing yards per game. Turner, who led the NFC in rushing last season, finished with 15 yards on 13 carries. On the critical play of the game, Saints cornerback Jabari Greer broke up a pass headed for Roddy White and New Orleans took over. If Ryan had led White perhaps a yard more, he might have had a touchdown. Still, Ryan threw for a career-high 411 yards. This loss was about more than that play. The Falcons failed to convert third-and-1 and third-and-2 on numerous occasions -- too many, really. It was a reminder of last year's playoff loss against the New York Giants when the Falcons could not convert similar distances on fourth down and those are the kinds of failings that will prevent many from taking the Falcons seriously as a Super Bowl contender -- until they can prove that they can convert them. The Falcons had one more series in the final seconds and again failed twice to convert when they needed one lonely, measly yard. So instead of potentially putting a nail in the coffin of the Bounty-gate-addled Saints, New Orleans, having won four out of five -- the same as the Falcons -- is resurgent. At 8-1, the Falcons still have the inside track to win the division and can accomplish virtually all of the goals they set for themselves this season. Still, this game has the feel that the Saints have the Falcons' number.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Joe Maddon delivers classic quote about not pitching Wade Davis in Game 2

NFL insists Ezekiel Elliott suspension is ‘in place’ until further notice

Report: Cavs will honor Kyrie Irving with video tribute on opening night

Giants expected to reinstate Rodgers-Cromartie in Week 7

Teddy Bridgewater to reportedly be taken off PUP, practice

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Ex-BC football player says he has video proof of X-rated recruiting parties

Hue Jackson hints DeShone Kizer may start Week 7

Fourteen unsung heroes from Week 7 of college football

Rick Pitino officially fired by Louisville for cause

Hopkins: Watson means ‘anything is possible’ for Texans

Is John Wall the most interesting player in the NBA?

The 'Sure do hope you have a backup plan in place' quiz

Tale of the Tape: National League Championship Series

Sports & Politics Intersect: White House looms large over sports world for another week

The 'A butcher, a Baker, a touchdown maker' quiz

Tale of the tape: American League Championship Series

What's trending up, down so far in the NFL

Three Up, Three Down: Divisional Series brings both luck and heartbreak

The 'Adrian Peterson hopes to rise from the ashes in Phoenix' quiz

College football 2017 Week 7 predictions

Nikola Jokic: A throwback superstar for the modern era

NFL Week 6 predictions

The 'Help wanted: Supervising manager' quiz

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

The 'Sure do hope you have a backup plan in place' quiz

Tale of the Tape: National League Championship Series

Sports & Politics Intersect: White House looms large over sports world for another week

The 'A butcher, a Baker, a touchdown maker' quiz

Tale of the tape: American League Championship Series

Three Up, Three Down: Divisional Series brings both luck and heartbreak

The 'Adrian Peterson hopes to rise from the ashes in Phoenix' quiz

What's trending up, down so far in the NFL

NFL Week 6 predictions

Nikola Jokic: A throwback superstar for the modern era

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker