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|First meeting||November 20, 1967
New Orleans 27, Atlanta 24
|Latest meeting||January 1, 2017
Atlanta 38, New Orleans 32
|Meetings total||96 meetings|
|All-time series||Atlanta 51–45|
|Largest victory||Atlanta: 62–7 (1973)
New Orleans: 38–0 (1987)
|Longest win streak||Atlanta: 10 (1995–1999)
New Orleans: 6 (1986–1989)
|Current win streak||Atlanta: 2 (2016–present)|
Super Bowl championships (1)
Super Bowl appearances (3)
Conference championships (3)
Division championships (11)
The Falcons–Saints rivalry is a divisional rivalry in the NFC South of the National Football League (NFL) between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. The series is by far the oldest and most established rivalry in the division. Founded one year apart, the Saints and Falcons were the first two NFL franchises in the Deep South (Washington, Dallas, and Miami being arguably southern but not in the "traditional" Deep South). They have shared some important players, such as kicker Morten Andersen (the leading scorer in New Orleans history), Bobby Hebert (who quarterbacked for both teams in the 1990s), and Joe Horn (the Pro Bowl Saints receiver who left for the Falcons in 2007). They have also drawn coaches from the same families, and even shared a head coach: recent Falcons coach Jim L. Mora is the son of longtime Saints coach Jim E. Mora, and former Falcons and Saints coach Wade Phillips is the son of former Saints coach Bum Phillips.
The series was rarely noted by the national media during the teams' first decades of existence, probably due to both teams' long stretches of futility. However, the September 2006 match-up, which served as the Louisiana Superdome's official reopening after Hurricane Katrina, was heralded as a major milestone in New Orleans' and the Gulf Coast's recovery from the effects of the storm as well as the Saints' return to the city after their own year-long exile after the storm; the Saints later erected a statue outside the Superdome to commemorate their win in that game.
The late season match-ups in the 2010 and 2011 seasons held playoff implications for both teams. Games between the Falcons and Saints have riveted their respective regions for more than 40 years; fans of both teams consider the other their most important and hated opponent. ESPN.com writer Len Pasquarelli has cited the rivalry as one of the best in sports: "Every year, bus caravans loaded with rowdy (and usually very inebriated) fans make the seven-hour trip between the two cities. Unless you've attended a Falcons-Saints debauchery-filled afternoon, you'll just have to take my word for how much fun it really can be."
Atlanta currently leads the all-time series 51-45 (50-45 regular season, 1-0 playoffs). Each team has appeared in the Super Bowl at least once, the Saints winning Super Bowl XLIV while the Falcons lost in Super Bowl XXXIII and in Super Bowl LI
It began in 1967, the first year of play for the Saints, and press accounts from that game, including the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune and Los Angeles Times, referred to it as the "Dixie Championship." In recent years, the game has sometimes been referred to as the "Southern Showdown." This has especially been the case leading up to the first of the two 2011 games, by WWL radio in New Orleans.
Notable games in the series
- The first time that the Saints made an appearance in the city of New Orleans was on September 9, 1967, in a pre-season game against Atlanta; the Saints won, 27–14. The two teams continued to play yearly in the pre-season until they became divisional opponents. A notable exception was on August 11, 1984, when the Saints took a 31–21 victory in New Orleans.
- The rivalry first truly began to heat up when the two teams became divisional opponents in 1970, allowing them to play twice per season. Despite being located east of the Mississippi River, both relatively new expansion teams were placed in the National Football Conference's Western Division that year – a tough division that would often leave the two teams battling it out with each other just to stay out of last place. Atlanta's 62-7 victory at Tulane Stadium in 1973 remains the most lopsided loss in Saints history. (Coincidentally, the Saints were involved in the only other 62-7 final in an NFL regular season game, crushing the Indianapolis Colts at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 23, 2011.)
- A pair of consecutive last-minute wins by Atlanta in 1978 with playoff implicauhelped to intensify the rivalry even further. With the Falcons down 17-13 in a late-season matchup at the Superdome and only :19 left on the clock, Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski aired a Hail Mary (called in the playbook "Big Ben Right") down to the endzone; the ball was tipped by Falcons reveiver Wallace Francis into the hands of his teammate Alfred Jackson, giving the Falcons a 20-17 victory. The teams met again two weeks later in Atlanta. Once again, the Falcons trailed 17-13, with only :53 on the clock and on their own 28-yard line; Bartkowski led the team down the field and scored with only five seconds left, stunning the Saints for the second time in 3 weeks and propelling the Falcons to their very first wild-card playoff berth: the Falcons finished 9-7, while the Saints finished 7-9; the two last second victories had decided the final playoff slot.
- The only postseason meeting to date in the Falcons–Saints rivalry was played in the Wild Card playoff round on December 28, 1991, at the Superdome. The Saints entered the 1991 playoffs as the NFC West champions while the Falcons were a Wild Card team. Atlanta won the game on the road, 27-20, as Falcons quarterback Chris Miller threw the game-winning 61-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Haynes with 2:41 left in the fourth quarter. To add insult to injury, Haynes was a New Orleans native
- In the midst of New Orleans' troubled 2005 season in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, they suffered a loss at San Antonio to the Falcons on October 16. The Saints raced to a 10-3 lead in the second quarter before a fumble was returned by DeAngelo Hall of the Falcons for a 66-yard touchdown and a tie game. On the final play of the second quarter, the Falcons blocked a field goal try and Demorrio Williams ran back a 59-yard touchdown. An exchange of six touchdowns ensued and Devery Henderson caught a 15-yard game-tying score, leaving the game 31-31 in the final minute of regulation. A penalty on the Saints helped the Falcons set up Todd Peterson's 36-yard field goal on the final play, ending a 34-31 Falcons win. Saints coach Jim Haslett was so angry over the late penalty that he repeatedly ripped the "chickenshit" calls by referee Bill Carollo and his crew.
- The Falcons were the opponent in the Saints' first game in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, held on September 25, 2006. The Saints won the nationally televised match 23–3; the game was the highest-rated program in the history of ESPN and the second-highest-rated cable program of all time. Early in the first quarter, Saints safety Steve Gleason blocked a punt by Falcons kicker Michael Koenen and Curtis Deloatch recovered the ball in the Falcons' end zone for a Saints touchdown. It was the first score in the Saints' first game in New Orleans in nearly 21 months, during which time Hurricane Katrina had devastated the city and the team. The Saints dominated the game and went on to have the most successful season in their history up to that time. In July 2012, "Rebirth", a statue depicting Gleason blocking the punt, was erected outside the Superdome; a news report commented that the blocked punt "etched Steve Gleason into Saints lore and became symbolic of New Orleans' resilience in the face of disaster".
- The Falcons hosted the Saints on November 26, 2006, at the Georgia Dome. Michael Vick rushed for 166 yards but threw for only 84 yards while Drew Brees of the Saints threw for 349 yards (a week after a 510-yard performance against the Cincinnati Bengals), including a 48-yard heave to Terrance Copper caught in heavy traffic in the Falcons end zone for a Saints touchdown. The Saints routed the Falcons 31–13, and after the game, Vick flashed an obscene gesture to booing Falcons fans.
- The Saints were on a quest for an undefeated season in 2009 when, on November 2, they hosted the Falcons on Monday Night Football. Atlanta led 14-7 after one quarter; New Orleans then erupted with 21 second-quarter points and held off a late Atlanta comeback effort when a Darren Sharper intercepted a Matt Ryan pass at the Saints 5, ending a 35-27 Saints win. The win raised New Orleans to a 13-0 record; the Saints then dropped their last 3 regular season games before sweeping through the playoffs on their way to winning the Super Bowl.
- In the 2010 season, both games had important implications for the playoff race. The Falcons won a week 3 matchup at the Superdome 27-24 in overtime (after Saints kicker Garrett Hartley made a last-second field goal to tie the game in regulation, but then missed another kick that would have won it in overtime). The win gave Atlanta an advantage in the standings which Falcons retained all season. In the Week 16 rematch, the teams met for the fifth time in six seasons on Monday Night Football, with the NFC South title still on the line; in a typically close game the Saints held on for a 17-14 win, clinching a playoff berth. (The Falcons won the following week to earn the top seed in the NFC; both teams then were then upset in their opening playoff games, New Orleans losing to the underdog Seattle Seahawks 41-36 in the wild-card round, while Atlanta was routed by the eventual Super Bowl XLV champion Green Bay Packers in the divisional round 48-21.)
- In the 2011 season, both teams met again for a Monday Night Football matchup. Like the previous season, playoff implications were at stake for both teams, however, in a near-inverse of the 2010 meeting, New Orleans, entered Week 16 with an 11-3 record with a playoff berth already clinched, were in better position to win the NFC South division title, and needed a win in one of their final two games or an Atlanta loss in one of their final two games to clinch the division title, while Atlanta, entering Week 16 with a 9-5 record, needed to win out as well as for New Orleans to lose against Carolina in Week 17 to repeat as NFC South champions. A major historical aspect of this game was Saint Drew Brees' pursuit of Dan Marino's single season record for passing yards, 5084, set in 1984. Entering the game with 4780 yards, Brees needed only 305 in his final two games to obtain the record. Atlanta received the opening kickoff and quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead but the Saints immediately responded with an 84-yard touchdown drive sparked by Brees' 38-yard completion to Lance Moore on the drive's first play. Brees would end the first quarter with 66 yards. By halftime, Brees was within 75 yards of the record with 230 yards in the first half, thanks in large part to the 164 yards he notched in the second quarter, which lifted the Saints to a 21-10 lead. Despite only having 45 yards in the third quarter, Brees managed to help the Saints extend their lead to 31-13 and he entered the fourth quarter 30 yards shy of Marino's record. The fourth quarter was somewhat atypical of how the Saints had played during the first three quarters in that they punted for the first time in the game and were held to a three-and-out for the third straight possession dating back to the third quarter when they had to settle for a field goal after failing to get a first down following Darren Sproles' 92-yard kickoff return which set them up with excellent field position at the Atlanta 14-yard line. Continuing the breaking of trends was the Saints' defense, which came into the game having forced the fewest turnovers of any defense in the league. That improved when linebacker Scott Shanle stripped the football from Falcons' wide receiver Julio Jones at the Falcons' 35-yard line and Saints' free safety Malcolm Jenkins grabbed the ball bouncing off the turf in stride and ran 30 yards down the sideline for a touchdown, extending the lead to 38-16. With zero completions or yards through the Saints' first two fourth-quarter possessions, it appeared uncertain if Brees would be able to get the record in front of a national audience in prime time but after the Saints' defense succeeded in stopping the Falcons on fourth down for the second straight possession and having taken over at the Falcons' 32-yard line with Brees needing just 30 for the record, the stage was set for history. On the ensuing drive, Brees completed a 12-yard pass to Marques Colston and an 11-yarder to Devery Henderson, coming to within 7 yards of the record. After an incomplete pass on first and goal from the Falcons' 9-yard line, Brees connected with running back Darren Sproles at the 1-yard line by the left hash mark and he carried it into the end zone, completing the quest for the record with Brees at 5087 yards through 15 games and capping off the scoring for the game with the Saints winning 45–16 and clinching the NFC South division title, their third since Sean Payton became head coach in 2006 and fifth in franchise history. Brees ended the night completing 23 of his 39 passing attempts for 307 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions; it was also his 12th game of the season with at least 300 yards passing, an NFL record.
- In 2012, the Saints struggled through a down year after incurring heavy league penalties from their bounty scandal, but the Saints still managed to hand the Falcons their first loss of the season, 31–27 at the Superdome in week 10. Three weeks later, airport workers in Atlanta egged the Saints' charter bus when the Saints arrived in Atlanta for their game against the Falcons. Drew Brees threw 5 interceptions and his record of consecutive games with a touchdown pass was snapped as the Falcons controlled the rematch 23-13. (The Falcons went on to earn the top seed in the NFC for the second time in three years.)
- In 2013, the teams met in a highly promoted opening-week match-up. The Saints held off a last-second Atlanta drive to win 23–17, then went on to win their first five games while the Falcons, hampered by injuries, unexpectedly suffered through a loss-filled campaign. In the rematch, a Thursday night prime-time game, the Saints again held on to win another narrow victory, 17–13, marked by Brees moving past Warren Moon into fifth place on the all-time career passing list.
Individual game results
This is a list of results from all of the meetings between the Saints and Falcons from their first meeting in 1967 to the present.
|Saints victory||Falcons victory||* Post-season meeting|
|Date||Site||Winning team||Losing team||Series|
|November 20, 1967||New Orleans||New Orleans||27||Atlanta||24||NO 1-0|
|December 7, 1969||Atlanta||Atlanta||45||New Orleans||17||Tied 1-1|
|September 20, 1970||New Orleans||Atlanta||14||New Orleans||3||ATL 2-1|
|October 25, 1970||Atlanta||Atlanta||32||New Orleans||14||ATL 3-1|
|October 24, 1971||Atlanta||Atlanta||28||New Orleans||6||ATL 4-1|
|December 19, 1971||New Orleans||Atlanta||24||New Orleans||20||ATL 5-1|
|October 15, 1972||New Orleans||Atlanta||21||New Orleans||14||ATL 6-1|
|November 12, 1972||Atlanta||Atlanta||36||New Orleans||20||ATL 7-1|
|September 16, 1973||New Orleans||Atlanta||62||New Orleans||7||ATL 8-1|
|December 16, 1973||Atlanta||Atlanta||14||New Orleans||10||ATL 9-1|
|September 29, 1974||New Orleans||New Orleans||14||Atlanta||13||ATL 9-2|
|October 20, 1974||Atlanta||New Orleans||13||Atlanta||3||ATL 9-3|
|October 5, 1975||Atlanta||Atlanta||14||New Orleans||7||ATL 10-3|
|November 2, 1975||New Orleans||New Orleans||23||Atlanta||7||ATL 10-4|
|October 10, 1976||New Orleans||New Orleans||30||Atlanta||0||ATL 10-5|
|October 31, 1976||Atlanta||Atlanta||23||New Orleans||20||ATL 11-5|
|November 20, 1977||New Orleans||New Orleans||21||Atlanta||20||ATL 11-6|
|December 18, 1977||Atlanta||Atlanta||35||New Orleans||7||ATL 12-6|
|November 12, 1978||Atlanta||Atlanta||20||New Orleans||17||ATL 13-6|
|November 26, 1978||New Orleans||Atlanta||20||New Orleans||17||ATL 14-6|
|September 2, 1979||New Orleans||Atlanta||40||New Orleans||34||ATL 15-6|
|November 25, 1979||Atlanta||New Orleans||37||Atlanta||6||ATL 15-7|
|October 19, 1980||New Orleans||Atlanta||41||New Orleans||14||ATL 16-7|
|November 16, 1980||Atlanta||Atlanta||31||New Orleans||13||ATL 17-7|
|September 6, 1981||Atlanta||Atlanta||27||New Orleans||0||ATL 18-7|
|November 1, 1981||New Orleans||Atlanta||41||New Orleans||10||ATL 19-7|
|December 12, 1982||Atlanta||Atlanta||35||New Orleans||0||ATL 20-7|
|January 2, 1983||New Orleans||New Orleans||35||Atlanta||6||ATL 20-8|
|October 9, 1983||Atlanta||New Orleans||19||Atlanta||17||ATL 20-9|
|November 6, 1983||New Orleans||New Orleans||27||Atlanta||10||ATL 20-10|
|September 2, 1984||New Orleans||Atlanta||36||New Orleans||28||ATL 21-10|
|November 11, 1984||Atlanta||New Orleans||17||Atlanta||13||ATL 21-11|
|October 20, 1985||Atlanta||Atlanta||31||New Orleans||24||ATL 22-11|
|December 22, 1985||New Orleans||Atlanta||16||New Orleans||10||ATL 23-11|
|September 7, 1986||New Orleans||Atlanta||31||New Orleans||10||ATL 24-11|
|December 14, 1986||Atlanta||New Orleans||14||Atlanta||9||ATL 24-12|
|November 1, 1987||Atlanta||New Orleans||38||Atlanta||0||ATL 24-13|
|September 11, 1988||Atlanta||New Orleans||29||Atlanta||21||ATL 24-14|
|December 18, 1988||New Orleans||New Orleans||10||Atlanta||9||ATL 24-15|
|October 29, 1989||New Orleans||New Orleans||20||Atlanta||13||ATL 24-16|
|November 19, 1989||Atlanta||New Orleans||26||Atlanta||17||ATL 24-17|
|October 7, 1990||Atlanta||Atlanta||28||New Orleans||27||ATL 25-17|
|November 25, 1990||New Orleans||New Orleans||10||Atlanta||7||ATL 25-18|
|September 29, 1991||Atlanta||New Orleans||27||Atlanta||6||ATL 25-19|
|November 24, 1991||New Orleans||Atlanta||23||New Orleans||20||ATL 26-19|
|December 28, 1991*||New Orleans||Atlanta||27||New Orleans||20||ATL 27-19|
|September 20, 1992||Atlanta||New Orleans||10||Atlanta||7||ATL 27-20|
|December 3, 1992||New Orleans||New Orleans||22||Atlanta||14||ATL 27-21|
|September 12, 1993||Atlanta||New Orleans||34||Atlanta||31||ATL 27-22|
|October 24, 1993||New Orleans||Atlanta||26||New Orleans||15||ATL 28-22|
|November 13, 1994||New Orleans||New Orleans||33||Atlanta||32||ATL 28-23|
|December 11, 1994||Atlanta||New Orleans||29||Atlanta||20||ATL 28-24|
|September 15, 1995||New Orleans||Atlanta||27||New Orleans||24||ATL 29-24|
|December 10, 1995||Atlanta||Atlanta||19||New Orleans||14||ATL 30-24|
|September 22, 1996||New Orleans||Atlanta||28||New Orleans||14||ATL 31-24|
|November 17, 1996||Atlanta||Atlanta||17||New Orleans||15||ATL 32-24|
|October 12, 1997||New Orleans||Atlanta||23||New Orleans||17||ATL 33-24|
|November 23, 1997||Atlanta||Atlanta||20||New Orleans||3||ATL 34-24|
|October 18, 1998||Atlanta||Atlanta||31||New Orleans||23||ATL 35-24|
|December 13, 1998||New Orleans||Atlanta||27||New Orleans||17||ATL 36-24|
|October 10, 1999||New Orleans||Atlanta||20||New Orleans||17||ATL 37-24|
|December 5, 1999||Atlanta||Atlanta||35||New Orleans||12||ATL 38-24|
|October 22, 2000||Atlanta||New Orleans||21||Atlanta||19||ATL 38-25|
|December 27, 2000||New Orleans||New Orleans||23||Atlanta||7||ATL 38-26|
|October 21, 2001||New Orleans||Atlanta||20||New Orleans||13||ATL 39-26|
|December 9, 2001||Atlanta||New Orleans||28||Atlanta||10||ATL 39-27|
|October 27, 2002||New Orleans||Atlanta||37||New Orleans||35||ATL 40-27|
|November 17, 2002||Atlanta||Atlanta||24||New Orleans||21||ATL 41-27|
|October 19, 2003||Atlanta||New Orleans||45||Atlanta||17||ATL 41-28|
|November 16, 2003||New Orleans||New Orleans||23||Atlanta||20||ATL 41-29|
|November 28, 2004||Atlanta||Atlanta||24||New Orleans||21||ATL 42-29|
|December 26, 2004||New Orleans||New Orleans||26||Atlanta||13||ATL 42-30|
|October 16, 2005||San Antonio||Atlanta||34||New Orleans||31||ATL 43-30|
|December 12, 2005||Atlanta||Atlanta||36||New Orleans||17||ATL 44-30|
|September 25, 2006||New Orleans||New Orleans||23||Atlanta||3||ATL 44-31|
|November 26, 2006||Atlanta||New Orleans||31||Atlanta||13||ATL 44-32|
|October 21, 2007||New Orleans||New Orleans||22||Atlanta||16||ATL 44-33|
|December 10, 2007||Atlanta||New Orleans||34||Atlanta||14||ATL 44-34|
|November 9, 2008||Atlanta||Atlanta||34||New Orleans||20||ATL 45-34|
|December 7, 2008||New Orleans||New Orleans||29||Atlanta||25||ATL 45-35|
|November 2, 2009||New Orleans||New Orleans||35||Atlanta||27||ATL 45-36|
|December 14, 2009||Atlanta||New Orleans||26||Atlanta||23||ATL 45-37|
|September 26, 2010||New Orleans||Atlanta||27||New Orleans||24||ATL 46-37|
|December 27, 2010||Atlanta||New Orleans||17||Atlanta||14||ATL 46-38|
|November 13, 2011||Atlanta||New Orleans||26||Atlanta||23||ATL 46-39|
|December 26, 2011||New Orleans||New Orleans||45||Atlanta||16||ATL 46-40|
|November 11, 2012||New Orleans||New Orleans||31||Atlanta||27||ATL 46-41|
|November 29, 2012||Atlanta||Atlanta||23||New Orleans||13||ATL 47-41|
|September 8, 2013||New Orleans||New Orleans||23||Atlanta||17||ATL 47-42|
|November 21, 2013||Atlanta||New Orleans||17||Atlanta||13||ATL 47-43|
|September 7, 2014||Atlanta||Atlanta||37||New Orleans||34||ATL 48-43|
|December 21, 2014||New Orleans||Atlanta||30||New Orleans||14||ATL 49-43|
|October 15, 2015||New Orleans||New Orleans||31||Atlanta||21||ATL 49-44|
|January 3, 2016||Atlanta||New Orleans||20||Atlanta||17||ATL 49-45|
|September 26, 2016||New Orleans||Atlanta||45||New Orleans||32||ATL 50-45|
|January 1, 2017||Atlanta||Atlanta||38||New Orleans||32||ATL 51-45|
The Saints hold a 3-1 edge in pre-season games against the Falcons, including a victory on September 9, 1967 when the Saints played in the city of New Orleans for the very first time. The home teams have always won the pre-season games in this series.
|1967||New Orleans Saints||27-14||New Orleans|
|1969||New Orleans Saints||21-17||New Orleans|
|1984||New Orleans Saints||31-21||New Orleans|
The Falcons hold a 5-2 lead in overtime games in this series.
|1979||Atlanta Falcons||40-34||New Orleans|
|1991||Atlanta Falcons||23-20||New Orleans|
|1995||Atlanta Falcons||27-24||New Orleans|
|2003||New Orleans Saints||23-20||New Orleans|
|2010||Atlanta Falcons||27-24||New Orleans|
|2011||New Orleans Saints||26-23||Atlanta|
Monday Night Football
The Saints and Falcons have met seven times on Monday Night Football, most recently in 2016. The series has been played three times in Atlanta and four times in New Orleans, and overall the Saints lead 5–2.
The 2006 matchup, the first game played in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, was the second highest rated cable television broadcast of all time, a mark that has since been surpassed. The 2010 matchup averaged 19.1 million viewers on ESPN, making it the most watched cable broadcast of 2010.
|2006||New Orleans Saints||23-3||New Orleans|
|2007||New Orleans Saints||34-14||Atlanta|
|2009||New Orleans Saints||35-27||New Orleans|
|2010||New Orleans Saints||17-14||Atlanta|
|2011||New Orleans Saints||45-16||New Orleans|
|2016||Atlanta Falcons||45-32||New Orleans|
Thursday Night Football
Atlanta and New Orleans have played Thursday night games 4 times, with the Saints holding a 3-1 edge in those contests. Counting both Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football, the New Orleans Saints have an 8-3 lead in regular season prime time games.
|1992||New Orleans Saints||22-14||New Orleans|
|2013||New Orleans Saints||17-13||Atlanta|
|2015||New Orleans Saints||31-21||New Orleans|
- Pasquarelli, Len (August 15, 2006). "Super Bowl or bowl games? Enough said". ESPN.com.
- "All Games in NFL History with a 62 to 7 score"
- "Steve Gleason statue unveiled", Associated Press at ESPN.com, July 28, 2012.
- "2011 NFL Broadcasting Guide (Cont.)". CNN. September 6, 2011.