SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports activities’ Lindsay H. Jones breaks down the matchups that each NFL fan must you should definitely watch this weekend.
USA TODAY Sports activities
ATLANTA — Deion Jones didn’t know precisely how top he’d jumped as he went after Drew Brees’ would-be game-winning landing move Thursday evening. However proper after the Atlanta Falcons linebacker secured the ball in his fingers, he felt himself placing within the air, ft up, higher frame falling backwards.
Jones closed his eyes and held onto the ball for expensive existence.
“I knew I used to be up there,” he stated within the victorious locker room, recalling his interception, which got here with 85 seconds ultimate and sealed a probably season-saving 20-17 win over the NFC South-leading Saints.
“It was once all concerning the ball. I simply sought after to carry onto it. It harm coming down. I opened my eyes and all my brothers status over me cheering.”
Jones’ interception got here 3 performs after New Orleans transformed on fourth-and-1 from the 24 relatively than settling for a game-tying box purpose. The Saints sought after to win, no longer tie.
However Jones and his defensive teammates advised themselves that they wanted a forestall. Certain, Atlanta would have got every other ownership had New Orleans gotten a box purpose or perhaps a landing. And the Falcon defenders had self assurance in Matt Ryan’s skill to guide the offense on a game-winning force.
However they requested themselves, why let it get to that time?
“We at all times speak about being closers and being the baddest at the box,” Jones stated.
“We would have liked to position it on our shoulders,” protection Ricardo Allen agreed. “We all know the offense can, however we didn’t need them to have to attain. We would have liked to have their backs.”
It felt just right to ship, the Falcons defenders admitted.
“It’s a testomony to our enlargement and the way onerous we’ve been operating,” Jones added.
More than one occasions this season, the Falcons have had to do greater than depend on an offense that is sputtered a ways too steadily. And despite the fact that a tender protection has proven stable growth, the unit has fallen brief in late-game scenarios with 3 in their 5 losses coming by way of 5 issues or fewer.
So every week, the defensive gamers have labored to enhance conversation, popularity and execution. All of it got here in combination at the ultimate stand.
Brees marched the Saints 69 yards to achieve the 11-yard line. However the Falcons had a good suggestion of what was once approaching that pivotal play.
Jones discovered himself matched up with tight finish Josh Hill, trailed him into the top zone, and stepped in entrance of him as he started on the lookout for the ball, positioning himself to pluck the Brees move out of the air.
“We’ve grown. It is a just right signal for us going ahead,” Falcons defensive finish Adrian Clayborn stated. “We’re the protection. We’re intended to position out the fireplace. That’s what we did.
“To prevent a man like that when a protracted force and get up, it displays so much. With a bit of luck we will construct on it and win extra video games.”
Defensive heroics had been vital Thursday, particularly with Ryan throwing 3 interceptions. However on account of Atlanta’s sturdy defensive effort, New Orleans controlled simply 3 issues off of turnovers. The Falcons additionally held New Orleans’ typically potent speeding assault to simply 50 yards. Rookie Alvin Kamara left the sport within the first quarter with a concussion. However Atlanta did smartly containing Mark Ingram.
The Falcons sooner or later notched the game-tying landing with Nine:55 to play and the go-ahead 52-yard Matt Bryant box purpose with three:54.
The defensive heroics will have additionally stored the protecting NFC champs’ season. Even at Eight-Five, the Falcons are nonetheless at the outdoor of the playoff image. Left at the agenda: a recreation at Tampa Bay (Four-Eight) in 10 days, at New Orleans (Nine-Four) on Christmas Eve and at house in opposition to Carolina on New Yr’s Eve. Win all of them, and the Falcons will retain the NFC South crown.
And if the protection can construct in this effort and shut out the season on a robust notice, Atlanta nonetheless may have an opportunity in spite of this season’s lowered firepower on offense.
“It’s the Atlanta Falcons. It’s no longer offense as opposed to protection. They’ve were given our again, we’ve were given their again,” extensive receiver Julio Jones stated.
“There’s at all times ebbs and flows within the recreation. and it speaks extremely of the protection that we all know they have got our again, just right or unhealthy, and can at all times attempt to make a play in the market.”
Practice Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones
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