ATLANTA -- Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 26-23 victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
What it means: The Saints are 7-3 and firmly in control of the NFC South. The Falcons fell to 5-4 and the Buccaneers also lost to drop to 4-5. The Saints control their own destiny. They’ve already played Tampa Bay twice and have a Dec. 26 game with Atlanta. The Falcons aren’t out of the race yet, but they face an uphill battle.
What I liked: New Orleans’ defense. A lot of people say the Saints don’t have a good defense, and there has been plenty of evidence to support that this year. But not on Sunday. The Saints won this game largely because of defense on a day when Drew Brees and the offense weren’t putting up as many points as usual.
What I didn't like: When Mike Smith first decided to go for it on fourth-and-inches in overtime, I liked the call. I thought it was gutsy and ambitious. After watching Michael Turner get stuffed, I changed my mind. Smith should have punted and taken his chances with his defense.
What else I didn’t like: Roddy White’s game. He had a pass go off his hands that turned into a New Orleans interception. He also was flagged for two penalties away from the play. White’s been a bit off all season, but this was, by far, his worst game. White arguably was the best receiver in the league last year. This season, he hasn't even been close.
The Julio factor: Once rookie receiver Julio Jones left the game, it sure seemed like Atlanta’s offense became stagnant until late in regulation. That shouldn’t happen. Jones is a good player, but Atlanta has plenty of other talent at the skill positions and should be able to get by without him.
The Graham factor: New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham has been getting rave reviews all season. But Sunday showed Graham is still a work in progress. He had seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. But he also dropped two very catchable passes.
What’s next: The Saints have a bye next week. They’ll return to action Nov. 28 when they host the New York Giants in a “Monday Night Football’’ game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Falcons will host the Tennessee Titans next Sunday.