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Even in loss to New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons show what they're made up


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http://www.examiner.com/x-1778-Atlanta-Falcons-Examiner~y2009m11d3-resolve#

There is little lost in the Atlanta Falcons defeat by the New Orleans on Monday night.

Much of the nation watched as Atlanta held their own against a football team many called the best in the NFL before 8:30 on November 2. Ultimately, their effort wasn't enough as they lost 35-27.

But what many saw was an Atlanta Falcons team that continued to find ways to stay in the game, despite some mistakes.

Quarterback Matt Ryan threw three interceptions and a typically strong offensive line yielded three sacks of their second-year QB, but Atlanta always managed to get back in the game, despite being down at halftime by two touchdowns with seemingly no momentum.

"I think our guys showed a tremendous amount of resolve in the ball game," Head Coach Mike Smith said. "To continue to fight through the 60 minutes and give us a chance there at the end of the ball game to win."

Atlanta found themselves in a position no team has experienced this season: at the end of a game (literally, the final 30 seconds) with a chance to tie the score against the Saints.

After a field goal and a recovered onside kick, Atlanta had the ball and down eight before Ryan's final pass of the game ended up in the hands of the wrong team. It was one mistake too many for the Falcons.

Atlanta's not a team to take moral victories to heart, but they believe they saw some things Monday night that give them reason to remain encouraged in the face of a two-game losing streak and a 4-3 record.

For one, the Atlanta defense played the best offense in the NFL strong, limiting them to only one touchdown in the second half. The defense seemed to wake up in the second half and can be credited with keeping the Falcons in the game, by way of holding New Orleans' dynamic offense down.

"We came in at halftime and said we've got to do our job," said safety Thomas DeCoud, whose sack and forced fumble of Saints' quarterback Drew Brees was one of the bright spots for the defense in the first half. "We made sure we were communicating and getting everybody lined up and in the right place. I think we did that in the second half and it showed. We got off the field on third down and created three and outs. It was just one of those things where we got it all ironed out and played good defense."

A good defense against one of the best offenses around is something to hang your hat on. Linebacker Curtis Lofton said he and his teammates heard all week about the challenge they faced.

"All week everybody kept talking about how they put up 40 points a game," said Lofton on the Falcons First Take postgame interview. "As a defense we took that as a slap in the face. We wanted to come out here and execute the game plan. For the most part we played pretty well. But we gave up a couple of big plays and we can't do that."

A loss is still a loss, but Atlanta had an opportunity to give up at the down-by-14 mark, but chose to ignore it, which says something about the character of the team.

"I'm very proud of the way the guys fought," said Smith. "Not happy with the outcome, but the guys played extremely hard."

And now they face a true test, rebounding after a tough stretch of weeks and losses. The silver lining in that is that they can return home to the Georgia Dome, hosting the Washington Redskins on Sunday in a critical situation.

"It's good to get back home," running back Michael Turner said. "It's a big game for us. We need this win bad. I think the fans of Atlanta will help us out in getting that win."

A somber Falcons squad spoke about the bitterness of the loss, a game they knew they could have won convincingly, but still proud of their sticktoitiveness.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez took the sound bites a step further, saying he believes Monday night showed the nation that the Atlanta Falcons are still one of the better teams around and capable of great things.

"I will say this: if that's the best team in the NFL, then I like where we're going," the ten-time Pro Bowler said. "We're going to be alright. I was really happy with the way we played, especially in the second half. If we can keep that up for the rest of this year, by the time it's all said and done I think we're going to be in a pretty good position."

The Falcons may not need this kind of perseverance again for the remainder of the season, but at least they know it's there. Even in a loss where a lot of things went wrong, they proved to themselves, if no one else, that they're capable of hanging around.

And as Gonzalez believes, they're going to be hanging around all season.

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Outstanding effort by a team that everyone discounted before the game started. It still seems lost on the media but if Atlanta uses this game as benchmark for the rest of the season, I expect that to change.

Wonderful gut wrenching game last night and I am proud of this team...except Elam (WTF)

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Good article. I thik the writer is on point with his observation of the game. we just need to get our Offense clicking and we will be a huge problem. Our defense for the most part has played well above my expectations for this year. We knew our team was still young on both sides of the ball and especially the defense. Injuries have hurt us, but if we can get the Offense clicking it will lead to a winning streak.

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Outstanding effort by a team that everyone discounted before the game started. It still seems lost on the media but if Atlanta uses this game as benchmark for the rest of the season, I expect that to change.

Wonderful gut wrenching game last night and I am proud of this team...except Elam (WTF)

I agree... If his hamstring is THAT bad, then I would rather see Koenen pulling double duty and kicking any FG over 25-30 yards. His 51 (or whatever) yard attempt was one of the ugliest FG attempts I've ever seen. Especially coming from a future HOF'er.

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