FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. With their playoff hopes rapidly fading back in 2009 and quarterback Matt Ryan out with a turf toe injury, the Falcons were in the process of a furious fourth-quarter rally led by Chris Redman against New Orleans at the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons faced fourth-and-2 at the Saints' 46 and opted for a short pass over the middle to fullback Jason Snelling, a play that earlier in the game had gone for a big gain.
One Saints defender was not fooled. Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma sniffed the play out and smothered Snelling before he could get to the first down with 1:18 left, keeping the Saints unbeaten at 13-0 with a 26-23 victory en route to their Super Bowl championship and mortally wounding the Falcons' playoff chances in the process.
Not much was on the line that day in terms of NFC South Division race, but it will be this Sunday when the Saints (6-3) visit the Falcons (5-3) at the Georgia Dome and the status of Vilma -- a Pro-Bowler the last two seasons and ...