Saints show they could make noise

By SHELDON MICKLES

Advocate sportswriter

What we witnessed in a seven-day span in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome could be an indication that the New Orleans Saints are going to make some noise after all in the final seven games of the season.

They’re still a long shot to make the playoffs, of course, but at least they carved out a tiny spot in any conversation about the postseason — for now, anyway — with wins over the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.

Four victories in the past five games may not be enough to overcome their dreadful 0-4 start. But by being competitive on both sides of the ball against the Eagles and Falcons, the Saints have shown that they could be in the mix before it’s all over.

If they can’t get there themselves, they at least could make it more difficult for other teams to get there and have a say in the postseason seedings with games against the San Francisco 49ers, Falcons and New York Giants coming up in the next four weeks.

“There’s still some meat on the bone,” Saints wide receiver Lance Moore said when asked about the five-game stretch that’s helped them battle back from the 0-4 hole they dug early. “There are more plays to be made.”

While they knew it was going to take a lot to come back, they now know it’s possible — especially after Sunday’s 31-27 win over the previously unbeaten
Falcons.

Playing confidently on both sides of the ball, the Saints brought the Falcons back to earth with some unexpected help — mainly from a defense that couldn’t stop anyone, particularly against the run.

So when the Falcons came back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter and pulled within one point with about nine minutes left, Saints fans had to know what was coming next.

Surely, the Falcons were going to march down and kick a field goal to win. Or they would find a way to get an easy touchdown when the Saints pushed the lead back to four on a field goal by Garrett Hartley.

Certainly, it didn’t look good when the Falcons got all the way to the Saints’ 1 and faced a second-and-goal situation.

That’s where the Saints’ defense produced what they hope is a defining moment in their season, stopping the Falcons’ potent offense twice from the 1-yard line and the final time from the 2.

And they did it by holding the Falcons to just one touchdown over a 40-minute stretch — pretty much in check after the Saints fell behind 10-0 less than six minutes into the game.

“They did an amazing job,” said tight end Jimmy Graham, whose two touchdowns helped the Saints outscore the Falcons 28-7 during that 40-minute span. “To hold them on the goal line at the end on third down and fourth down — and get the ball back, that was amazing.

“This feels like it should be,” he added. “I was telling everyone that this is how it was (the last couple of years here). If we keep this up, we’ll be hard to beat. Hopefully, we’ll keep it going.”