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'Hate Week' is here: Falcons love to play the rival Saints

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Coach Dan Quinn talks about the Falcons-Saints rivalry ahead of Sunday's NFC (0:28)

Coach Dan Quinn talks about the Falcons-Saints rivalry ahead of Sunday's NFC South showdown. Video by Vaughn McClure (0:28)

ATLANTA -- Michael Turner always heard how tense the rivalry between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints truly was, but the former NFL running back never fully experienced it until 2008.

Turner, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the San Diego Chargers, signed a free-agent deal with the Falcons in March 2008. He split his first two matchups with the Saints, then had to cope with being swept in '09, including a 26-23 loss at the Georgia Dome.

"The ugliest thing? The Saints doing their dances in the street after they won," Turner said. "My family seen it. Those Saints fans would go out in the streets and dance up Northside Drive. Even though I never saw it myself, I hated hearing about it.

"But it was always a fun game. The game I always loved playing the most was Saints-Falcons ... especially in New Orleans because I like being on the road in a hostile environment."

This Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, the Falcons (1-1) are the host as the teams meet for the 98th time in the regular season, with the Falcons holding a 51-46 all-time advantage over the Saints (1-1). Atlanta won the only playoff contest between them: a 27-20 wild-card win in 1991. A total of 20 games since 2000 have been decided by a touchdown or less, including four overtime games. In fact, the very first matchup between the teams on Nov. 26, 1967 was won by the expansion Saints, 27-24. Billy Kilmer threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Kent Kramer for the game-winner in front of 83,437 at Tulane Stadium.

"It's always fun, and it's always a tough game," Falcons owner Arthur Blank told ESPN. "As long as they have Drew [Brees] back there, they're going to score points, and you're going to have to keep up with them. They've had a much more competitive defense the last couple years than they've had previously. And they've got a great coach [Sean Payton]. So, it will be a good game. Looking forward it."

Former Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler said there's a good reason why he called it "Hate Week" when the Falcons and Saints squared off. Crumpler was a part of 12 of those games (2001-07), including the famed return to the Superdome for the Saints after Hurricane Katrina in 2006. That Monday Night Football game featured special-teams ace Steve Gleason blocking Michael Koenen's punt in the first quarter. It was recovered by Curtis Deloatch for a Saints touchdown, sending a deafening roar throughout the venue on the way to the Saints' 23-3 triumph.

"The Katrina game: I dropped a ball, we didn't win, it was loud," Crumpler said. "They needed it for their city, but I didn't want them to win the game. It was tough, man, because [Louisiana native] Warrick Dunn had arranged some tours for us to go see all the areas that had been devastated. We started playing that game and was hanging in there. But from when they blocked that punt, I don't remember nothing."

Of course, there are other moments the Falcons would rather forget, such as getting blown out 45-16 in New Orleans in 2011, losing on a last-second field goal 20-17 in the finale of Dan Quinn's first season in 2015, and Matt Ryan taking a shot in the ribs from safety Kenny Vaccaro in New Orleans (Sept. 8, 2013) without any of his teammates retaliating in his defense.

"I do remember that, and I was not happy about that," Blank said. "A lot of people were not happy about that. But it's football. We had a situation like that Sunday [with Falcons safety Damontae Kazee being ejected for hitting Cam Newton]."

Kicker Matt Bryant recalled having to attempt field goals three times in overtime -- the first was blocked but a timeout was called by the Saints, and then an offside penalty on the Falcons followed to push back Bryant -- before beating the defending Super Bowl champion Saints 27-24 in New Orleans with a 46-yarder (Sept. 26, 2010). Falcons president Rich McKay brought up that moment, too, and made sure to add how Saints kicker Garrett Harley missed a 29-yard field-goal attempt in overtime, setting up Bryant's heroics.

"We've had a lot of great games because Matt Ryan has been here, and Drew Brees has been here," McKay said. "I think we like to say that we don't like them, and they like to say they don't like us. But they still like coming here. And we still like going there."

The Falcons have won three of the past four meetings, although the Saints won the last matchup 23-13 last December. Ryan is 8-11 all time versus the Saints, completing 462-of-715 passes for 5,603 yards with 32 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and a passer rating of 96.5. Unfortunately, Ryan's most memorable Falcons-Saints moment might be stumbling and falling instead of blocking 300-plus pound defensive tackle Nick Fairley on a Devonta Freeman run.

Top receiver Julio Jones' career numbers against the Saints include 75 receptions for 1,160 yards and three touchdowns on 118 targets.

"I love playing the Saints ... in New Orleans though," Jones said. "The way their fans come out, I love the way we can go in there and beat them. You want to go in there and beat the Saints when everybody is against you."

That opportunity won't happen this season until the teams meet in New Orleans on Thanksgiving night (Nov. 22, 8:20 p.m. ET). Taking care of business at home is first up for Jones and the Falcons as both teams try to keep pace with current NFC South leader Tampa Bay (2-0).

Remember, the Falcons edged the Saints in dramatic fashion at home last season, when linebacker Deion Jones had a jaw-dropping, leaping interception of Brees in the end zone to seal the victory.

"That was a loud moment," said Crumpler, who is now a Falcons season-ticket holder. "As a matter of fact, the loudest I've heard the new stadium outside of that moment was when Matt Ryan scored on that impossible second touchdown run last week. I still don't know how he got up in there."

Ryan might want to get it done more with his arm than his feet this week against a struggling Saints pass defense. Then again, anything is bound to happen when these bitter rivals meet.