By Deitra P. Johnson
One bad play does not a football game make.
Yet Atlanta’s inability to move the chains on a fourth down play with about a foot to go for a first-and-10 might not have been the only factor in their 26-23 loss at the hands of the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 12, but it certainly was the nail in the coffin.
With the defeat, the Falcons (5-4) drop a game and a half behind the Saints (7-3), their NFC South rivals, with seven games left in the regular season.
A single, ill-fated play late in the game overshadowed a decent day for the Falcons. It was a judgment call by Coach Mike Smith that drew scrutiny after the loss because Atlanta’s punting team had already taken the field when the coach changed strategies and sent his offensive unit back out to go for the first down.
Not only were the Falcons stopped cold on fourth down, but the Saints also gained excellent field position in overtime. The Saints stood steadfast, holding running back Michael Turner to no gain at the line of scrimmage, subsequently taking over on their own 29-yard line.
Four plays later, John Kasay’s 26-yard field goal sealed the sudden-death win for New Orleans.
After the game, Smith was grilled on his play calling.
“It was something that I take full responsibility for,” Smith said. “It’s my decision, my decision solely. At first we were going to punt the football. I had a change of heart and wanted us to go for it. I thought the ball was less than half a yard. I thought we could get it.”
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was having an exceptional day up until the final drive, finishing the game with a career-high 351 yards and two touchdowns.
And Smith, no doubt, figured his team had the momentum after the offense had rallied from a 10-point deficit to tie the game at 23-23.Matt Bryant’s 27-yard field goal sent the game into overtime after the Falcons drove the ball